Novel Insights into the Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Robustness and Stability in Probiotic Bifidobacteria

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2023 Mar 29;89(3):e0008223. doi: 10.1128/aem.00082-23. Epub 2023 Feb 21.


Some probiotic bifidobacteria are highly robust and shelf-stable, whereas others are difficult to produce, due to their sensitivity to stressors. This limits their potential use as probiotics. Here, we investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the variability in stress physiologies of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12 and Bifidobacterium longum subsp. longum BB-46, by applying a combination of classical physiological characterization and transcriptome profiling. The growth behavior, metabolite production, and global gene expression profiles differed considerably between the strains. BB-12 consistently showed higher expression levels of multiple stress-associated genes, compared to BB-46. This difference, besides higher cell surface hydrophobicity and a lower ratio of unsaturated to saturated fatty acids in the cell membrane of BB-12, should contribute to its higher robustness and stability. In BB-46, the expression of genes related to DNA repair and fatty acid biosynthesis was higher in the stationary than in the exponential phase, which was associated with enhanced stability of BB-46 cells harvested in the stationary phase. The results presented herein highlight important genomic and physiological features contributing to the stability and robustness of the studied Bifidobacterium strains. IMPORTANCE Probiotics are industrially and clinically important microorganisms. To exert their health-promoting effects, probiotic microorganisms must be administered at high counts, while maintaining their viability at the time of consumption. In addition, intestinal survival and bioactivity are important criteria for probiotics. Although bifidobacteria are among the most well-documented probiotics, the industrial-scale production and commercialization of some Bifidobacterium strains is challenged by their high sensitivity to environmental stressors encountered during manufacturing and storage. Through a comprehensive comparison of the metabolic and physiological characteristics of 2 Bifidobacterium strains, we identify key biological markers that can serve as indicators for robustness and stability in bifidobacteria.

Keywords: Bifidobacteria longum subsp. longum; Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis; amino acids utilization and synthesis; cell membrane fatty acid profile; cell surface hydrophobicity; metabolite production; probiotic bacteria; robustness; stability; transcriptomic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bifidobacterium / metabolism
  • Bifidobacterium animalis* / genetics
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Probiotics* / metabolism

Supplementary concepts

  • Bifidobacterium longum subsp. longum