4 years ago

Reciprocal Prioritization to Dietary Glycans by Gut Bacteria in a Competitive Environment Promotes Stable Coexistence.

Porter, Hamaker, Martens, Xiao, Reuhs, Tuncil
When presented with nutrient mixtures, several human gut Bacteroides species exhibit hierarchical utilization of glycans through a phenomenon that resembles catabolite repression. However, it is unclear how closely these observed physiological changes, often measured by altered transcription of glycan utilization genes, mirror actual glycan depletion. To understand the glycan prioritization strategies of two closely related human gut symbionts, Bacteroides ovatus and Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, we performed a series of time course assays in which both species were individually grown in a medium with six different glycans that both species can degrade. Disappearance of the substrates and transcription of the corresponding polysaccharide utilization loci (PULs) were measured. Each species utilized some glycans before others, but with different priorities per species, providing insight into species-specific hierarchical preferences. In general, the presence of highly prioritized glycans repressed transcription of genes involved in utilizing lower-priority nutrients. However, transcriptional sensitivity to some glycans varied relative to the residual concentration in the medium, with some PULs that target high-priority substrates remaining highly expressed even after their target glycan had been mostly depleted. Coculturing of these organisms in the same mixture showed that the hierarchical orders generally remained the same, promoting stable coexistence. Polymer length was found to be a contributing factor for glycan utilization, thereby affecting its place in the hierarchy. Our findings not only elucidate how B. ovatus and B. thetaiotaomicron strategically access glycans to maintain coexistence but also support the prioritization of carbohydrate utilization based on carbohydrate structure, advancing our understanding of the relationships between diet and the gut microbiome.IMPORTANCE The microorganisms that reside in the human colon fulfill their energy requirements mainly from diet- and host-derived complex carbohydrates. Members of this ecosystem possess poorly understood strategies to prioritize and compete for these nutrients. Based on direct carbohydrate measurements and corresponding transcriptional analyses, our findings showed that individual bacterial species exhibit different preferences for the same set of glycans and that this prioritization is maintained in a competitive environment, which may promote stable coexistence. Such understanding of gut bacterial glycan utilization will be essential to eliciting predictable changes in the gut microbiota to improve health through the diet.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.01068-17

DOI: 10.1128/mBio.01068-17

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