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Cell Host Microbe. 2014 Jan 15;15(1):47-57. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2013.12.007.

Human gut microbes use multiple transporters to distinguish vitamin B₁₂ analogs and compete in the gut.

Author information

1
Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Microbial Diversity Institute, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06536, USA.
2
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
3
Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Microbial Diversity Institute, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06536, USA. Electronic address: andrew.goodman@yale.edu.

Abstract

Genomic and metagenomic sequencing efforts, including human microbiome projects, reveal that microbes often encode multiple systems that appear to accomplish the same task. Whether these predictions reflect actual functional redundancies is unclear. We report that the prominent human gut symbiont Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron employs three functional, homologous vitamin B₁₂ transporters that in at least two cases confer a competitive advantage in the presence of distinct B₁₂ analogs (corrinoids). In the mammalian gut, microbial fitness can be determined by the presence or absence of a single transporter. The total number of distinct corrinoid transporter families in the human gut microbiome likely exceeds those observed in B. thetaiotaomicron by an order of magnitude. These results demonstrate that human gut microbes use elaborate mechanisms to capture and differentiate corrinoids in vivo and that apparent redundancies observed in these genomes can instead reflect hidden specificities that determine whether a microbe will colonize its host.

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PMID:
24439897
PMCID:
PMC3923405
DOI:
10.1016/j.chom.2013.12.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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