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ISME J. 2011 Jul;5(7):1115-24. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2010.201. Epub 2011 Jan 20.

Structure and functions of exopolysaccharide produced by gut commensal Lactobacillus reuteri 100-23.

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Industrial Research Ltd., Wellington, New Zealand.


Lactobacillus reuteri strain 100-23 together with a Lactobacillus-free mouse model, provides a system with which the molecular traits underpinning bacterial commensalism in vertebrates can be studied. A polysaccharide was extracted from sucrose-containing liquid cultures of strain 100-23. Chemical analysis showed that this exopolysaccharide was a levan (β-2, 6-linked fructan). Mutation of the fructosyl transferase (ftf) gene resulted in loss of exopolysaccharide production. The ftf mutant was able to colonise the murine gastrointestinal tract in the absence of competition, but colonisation was impaired in competition with the wild type. Biofilm formation by the mutant on the forestomach epithelial surface was not impaired and the matrix between cells was indistinguishable from that of the wild type in electron micrographs. Colonisation of the mouse gut by the wild-type strain led to increased proportions of regulatory T cells (Foxp3+) in the spleen, whereas colonisation by the ftf mutant did not. Survival of the mutant in sucrose-containing medium was markedly reduced relative to the wild type. Comparison of the genomic ftf loci of strain 100-23 with other L. reuteri strains suggested that the ftf gene was acquired by lateral gene transfer early in the evolution of the species and subsequently diversified at accelerated rates. Levan production by L. reuteri 100-23 may represent a function acquired by the bacterial species for life in moderate to high-sucrose extra-gastrointestinal environments that has subsequently been diverted to novel uses, including immunomodulation, that aid in colonisation of the murine gut.

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