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Genes Nutr. 2011 Aug;6(3):307-18. doi: 10.1007/s12263-010-0207-5. Epub 2011 Jan 13.

How do bifidobacteria counteract environmental challenges? Mechanisms involved and physiological consequences.

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Department of Microbiology and Biochemistry of Dairy Products, Instituto de Productos Lácteos de Asturias, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IPLA-CSIC), Ctra. Infiesto s/n, 33300, Villaviciosa, Asturias, Spain.


An effective response to stress is of paramount importance for probiotic bifidobacteria administered in foods, since it determines their performance as beneficial microorganisms. Firstly, bifidobacteria have to be resistant to the stress sources typical in manufacturing, including heating, exposure to low water activities, osmotic shock and presence of oxygen. Secondly, and once they are orally ingested, bifidobacteria have to overcome physiological barriers in order to arrive in the large intestine biologically active. These barriers are mainly the acid pH in the stomach and the presence of high bile salt concentrations in the small intestine. In addition, the large intestine is, in terms of microbial amounts, a densely populated environment in which there is an extreme variability in carbon source availability. For this reason, bifidobacteria harbours a wide molecular machinery allowing the degradation of a wide variety of otherwise non-digestible sugars. In this review, the molecular mechanisms allowing this bacterial group to favourably react to the presence of different stress sources are presented and discussed.

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