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Genes Nutr. 2011 Aug;6(3):285-306. doi: 10.1007/s12263-010-0206-6. Epub 2011 Feb 16.

Carbohydrate metabolism in Bifidobacteria.

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Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, Department of Microbiology, University College Cork, Western Road, Cork, Ireland.


Members of the genus Bifidobacterium can be found as components of the gastrointestinal microbiota, and are believed to play an important role in maintaining and promoting human health by eliciting a number of beneficial properties. Bifidobacteria can utilize a diverse range of dietary carbohydrates that escape degradation in the upper parts of the intestine, many of which are plant-derived oligo- and polysaccharides. The gene content of a bifidobacterial genome reflects this apparent metabolic adaptation to a complex carbohydrate-rich gastrointestinal tract environment as it encodes a large number of predicted carbohydrate-modifying enzymes. Different bifidobacterial strains may possess different carbohydrate utilizing abilities, as established by a number of studies reviewed here. Carbohydrate-degrading activities described for bifidobacteria and their relevance to the deliberate enhancement of number and/or activity of bifidobacteria in the gut are also discussed in this review.

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