Structure and evolution of the bifidobacterial carbohydrate metabolism proteins and enzymes

Shinya Fushinobu*, Maher Abou Hachem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Bifidobacteria have attracted significant attention because they provide health-promoting effects in the human gut. In this review, we present a current overview of the three-dimensional structures of bifidobacterial proteins involved in carbohydrate uptake, degradation, and metabolism. As predominant early colonizers of the infant's gut, distinct bifidobacterial species are equipped with a panel of transporters and enzymes specific for human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). Interestingly, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum possess lacto-N-biosidases with unrelated structural folds to release the disaccharide lacto-N-biose from HMOs, suggesting the convergent evolution of this activity from different ancestral proteins. The crystal structures of enzymes that confer the degradation of glycans from the mucin glycoprotein layer provide a structural basis for the utilization of this sustainable nutrient in the gastrointestinal tract. The utilization of several plant dietary oligosaccharides has been studied in detail, and the prime importance of oligosaccharide-specific ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters in glycan utilisations by bifidobacteria has been revealed. The structural elements underpinning the high selectivity and roles of ABC transporter binding proteins in establishing competitive growth on preferred oligosaccharides are discussed. Distinct ABC transporters are conserved across several bifidobacterial species, e.g. those targeting arabinoxylooligosaccharide and α-1,6-galactosides/glucosides. Less prevalent transporters, e.g. targeting β-mannooligosaccharides, may contribute to the metabolic specialisation within Bifidobacterium. Some bifidobacterial species have established symbiotic relationships with humans. Structural studies of carbohydrate-utilizing systems in Bifidobacterium have revealed the interesting history of molecular coevolution with the host, as highlighted by the early selection of bifidobacteria by mucin and breast milk glycans.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)563-578
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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