Research ArticleMICROBIOLOGY

Evolutionary adaptation in fucosyllactose uptake systems supports bifidobacteria-infant symbiosis

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Science Advances  28 Aug 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 8, eaaw7696
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw7696


The human gut microbiota established during infancy has persistent effects on health. In vitro studies have suggested that human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) in breast milk promote the formation of a bifidobacteria-rich microbiota in infant guts; however, the underlying molecular mechanism remains elusive. Here, we characterized two functionally distinct but overlapping fucosyllactose transporters (FL transporter-1 and -2) from Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis. Fecal DNA and HMO consumption analyses, combined with deposited metagenome data mining, revealed that FL transporter-2 is primarily associated with the bifidobacteria-rich microbiota formation in breast-fed infant guts. Structural analyses of the solute-binding protein (SBP) of FL transporter-2 complexed with 2′-fucosyllactose and 3-fucosyllactose, together with phylogenetic analysis of SBP homologs of both FL transporters, highlight a unique adaptation strategy of Bifidobacterium to HMOs, in which the gain-of-function mutations enable FL transporter-2 to efficiently capture major fucosylated HMOs. Our results provide a molecular insight into HMO-mediated symbiosis and coevolution between bifidobacteria and humans.

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