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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2008 Dec;72(4):728-64, Table of Contents. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.00017-08.

Genes and molecules of lactobacilli supporting probiotic action.

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  • 1Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics, K U Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 20, 3001 Leuven, Belgium.


Lactobacilli have been crucial for the production of fermented products for centuries. They are also members of the mutualistic microbiota present in the human gastrointestinal and urogenital tract. Recently, increasing attention has been given to their probiotic, health-promoting capacities. Many human intervention studies demonstrating health effects have been published. However, as not all studies resulted in positive outcomes, scientific interest arose regarding the precise mechanisms of action of probiotics. Many reported mechanistic studies have addressed mainly the host responses, with less attention being focused on the specificities of the bacterial partners, notwithstanding the completion of Lactobacillus genome sequencing projects, and increasing possibilities of genomics-based and dedicated mutant analyses. In this emerging and highly interdisciplinary field, microbiologists are facing the challenge of molecular characterization of probiotic traits. This review addresses the advances in the understanding of the probiotic-host interaction with a focus on the molecular microbiology of lactobacilli. Insight into the molecules and genes involved should contribute to a more judicious application of probiotic lactobacilli and to improved screening of novel potential probiotics.

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