A Human Gut Commensal Ferments Cranberry Carbohydrates to Produce Formate.
Commensal bifidobacteria colonize the human gastrointestinal tract and catabolize glycans that are impervious to host digestion. Accordingly, Bifidobacterium longum typically secrete acetate and lactate as fermentative endproducts. This study tested the hypothesis that B. longum utilize cranberry-derived xyloglucans in a strain-dependent manner. Interestingly, the B. longum strain that efficiently utilizes cranberry xyloglucans secrete 2.0-2.5 moles acetate:lactate. The 1.5 ratio theoretical yield obtained in hexose fermentations shifts during xyloglucan metabolism. Accordingly, this metabolic shift is characterized by increased acetate and formate production at the expense of lactate. alpha-L-arabinofuranosidase, an arabinan endo-1,5-alpha-L-arabinosidase, and a beta-xylosidase with a carbohydrate substrate-binding protein and carbohydrate ABC transporter membrane proteins are upregulated (> 2-fold change), which suggests carbon flux through this catabolic pathway. Finally, syntrophic interactions occurred with strains that utilize carbohydrate products derived from initial degradation from a heterologous bacterium.IMPORTANCE This is a study of bacterial metabolism of complex cranberry carbohydrates termed xyloglucans that are likely not digested prior to reaching the colon. This is significant as bifidobacteria interact with this dietary compound to potentially impact human host health through energy and metabolite production by bacterial utilization of these substrates. Specific bacterial strains utilize cranberry xyloglucans as a nutritive source indicating unknown mechanisms that are not universal in bifidobacteria. In addition, xyloglucan metabolism proceeds using an alternative pathway could lead to further research to investigate mechanisms underlying this interaction. Finally, we observed cross-feeding between bacteria in which one strain degrades the cranberry xyloglucan to make it available to a second strain. Similar nutritive strategies are known to occur within the gut. In aggregate, this study may lead to novel foods or supplements to impact human health through rational manipulations of their microbiome.