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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 28;8(6):e67497. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067497. Print 2013.

Lowbush wild blueberries have the potential to modify gut microbiota and xenobiotic metabolism in the rat colon.

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Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, The University of Maine, Orono, Maine, United States of America.


The gastrointestinal tract is populated by an array of microbial species that play an important role in metabolic and immune functions. The composition of microorganisms is influenced by the components of the host's diet and can impact health. In the present study, dietary enrichment of lowbush wild blueberries (LWB) was examined to determine their effect on colon microbial composition and their potential in promoting gut health. The microbial composition and functional potential of the colon microbiota from Sprague Dawley rats fed control diets (AIN93) and LWB-enriched diets (AIN93+8% LWB powder substituting for dextrose) for 6 weeks were assessed using Illumina shotgun sequencing and bioinformatics tools. Our analysis revealed an alteration in the relative abundance of 3 phyla and 22 genera as representing approximately 14 and 8% of all phyla and genera identified, respectively. The LWB-enriched diet resulted in a significant reduction in the relative abundance of the genera Lactobacillus and Enterococcus. In addition, hierarchal analysis revealed a significant increase in the relative abundance of the phylum Actinobacteria, the order Actinomycetales, and several novel genera under the family Bifidobacteriaceae and Coriobacteriaceae, in the LWB group. Functional annotation of the shotgun sequences suggested that approximately 9% of the 4709 Kyoto Encyclopaedia of Gene and Genome (KEGG) hits identified were impacted by the LWB-diet. Open Reading Frames (ORFs) assigned to KEGG category xenobiotics biodegradation and metabolism were significantly greater in the LWB-enriched diet compared to the control and included the pathway for benzoate degradation [PATH:ko00362] and glycosaminoglycan degradation [PATH:ko00531]. Moreover, the number of ORFs assigned to the bacterial invasion of epithelial cells [PATH:ko05100] pathway was approximately 8 fold lower in the LWB group compared to controls. This study demonstrated that LWBs have the potential to promote gut health and can aid in the development of optimal diets.

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