Interspecies Competition Impacts Targeted Manipulation of Human Gut Bacteria by Fiber-Derived Glycans

Cell. 2019 Sep 19;179(1):59-73.e13. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.08.011.


Development of microbiota-directed foods (MDFs) that selectively increase the abundance of beneficial human gut microbes, and their expressed functions, requires knowledge of both the bioactive components of MDFs and the mechanisms underlying microbe-microbe interactions. Here, gnotobiotic mice were colonized with a defined consortium of human-gut-derived bacterial strains and fed different combinations of 34 food-grade fibers added to a representative low-fiber diet consumed in the United States. Bioactive carbohydrates in fiber preparations targeting particular Bacteroides species were identified using community-wide quantitative proteomic analyses of bacterial gene expression coupled with forward genetic screens. Deliberate manipulation of community membership combined with administration of retrievable artificial food particles, consisting of paramagnetic microscopic beads coated with dietary polysaccharides, disclosed the contributions of targeted species to fiber degradation. Our approach, including the use of bead-based biosensors, defines nutrient-harvesting strategies that underlie, as well as alleviate, competition between Bacteroides and control the selectivity of MDF components.

Keywords: biosensors; community ecology; interspecies competition; microbiota-directed foods; polysaccharide utilization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteroides / genetics*
  • Diet / methods
  • Dietary Fiber / metabolism
  • Dietary Fiber / pharmacology*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / drug effects
  • Germ-Free Life / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microbial Interactions / drug effects*
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Polysaccharides / pharmacology*
  • Proteomics / methods*


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Polysaccharides