Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 94, Issue 1, pp 35–50 | Cite as

Human gut microbiota and bifidobacteria: from composition to functionality

  • Francesca Turroni
  • Angela Ribbera
  • Elena Foroni
  • Douwe van Sinderen
  • Marco Ventura
Original Paper

Abstract

The human gut is the home of an estimated 1018 bacterial cells, many of which are uncharacterized or unculturable. Novel culture-independent approaches have revealed that the majority of the human gut microbiota consists of members of the phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. Nevertheless the role of bifidobacteria in gut ecology illustrates the importance of Actinomycetes and other Actinobacteria that may be underestimated. The human gut microbiota represents an extremely complex microbial community the collective genome of which, the microbiome, encodes functions that are believed to have a significant impact on human physiology. The microbiome is assumed to significantly enhance the metabolism of amino and glycan acids, the turnover of xenobiotics, methanogenesis and the biosynthesis of vitamins. Co-colonisation of the gut commensals Bifidobacterium longum and Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron in a murine model system revealed that the presence of bifidobacteria induced an expansion in the diversity of polysaccharides targeted for degradation by Bacteroides and also induced host genes involved in innate immunity. In addition, comparative analysis of individual human gut microbiomes has revealed various strategies that the microbiota use to adapt to the intestinal environment while also pointing to the existence of a distinct infant and adult-type microbiota.

Keywords

Microbiota Microbiome Genomics Bifidobacteria 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesca Turroni
    • 1
  • Angela Ribbera
    • 1
  • Elena Foroni
    • 1
  • Douwe van Sinderen
    • 2
  • Marco Ventura
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeneticsAnthropology and Evolution University of ParmaParmaItaly
  2. 2.Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre and Department of Microbiology, Bioscience InstituteNational University of IrelandCorkIreland

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