Human milk oligosaccharide consumption by probiotic and human-associated bifidobacteria and lactobacilli

J Dairy Sci. 2017 Oct;100(10):7825-7833. doi: 10.3168/jds.2017-12753. Epub 2017 Aug 2.


Human milk contains high concentrations of nondigestible complex oligosaccharides (human milk oligosaccharides; HMO) that reach the colon and are subsequently fermented by the infant gut microbiota. Using a high-throughput, low-volume growth determination, we evaluated the ability of 12 lactobacilli and 12 bifidobacteria strains, including several commercial probiotics, to ferment HMO and their constituent monomers. Of the 24 strains tested, only Bifidobacterium longum ssp. infantis ATCC 15697 and Bifidobacterium infantis M-63 were able to ferment 3'-sialyllactose, 6'-sialyllactose, 2'-fucosyllactose, and 3'-fucosyllactose. Bifidobacterium infantis M-63 degraded almost 90% of the 2'-fucosyllactose but left most of the fucose in the supernatant, as detected by HPLC. Among bifidobacteria, only the B. infantis strains and Bifidobacterium breve ATCC 15700 were able to ferment lacto-N-neotetraose (LNnT). Among lactobacilli, Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM was found to be the most efficient at utilizing LNnT. The extracellular β-galactosidase (lacL, LBA1467) of L. acidophilus NCFM cleaves the terminal galactose of LNnT for growth, leaving lacto-N-triose II in the media as detected by HPLC. Inactivation of lacL abolishes growth of L. acidophilus NCFM on LNnT. These results contribute to our knowledge of HMO-microbe interactions and demonstrate the potential for synbiotic combinations of pre- and probiotics.

Keywords: Bifidobacterium; Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM; human milk oligosaccharide; probiotic.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bifidobacterium / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus / metabolism*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism*
  • Probiotics / metabolism


  • Oligosaccharides