Linking human milk oligosaccharide metabolism and early life gut microbiota: bifidobacteria and beyond

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Lordan, Cathy
Roche, Aoife K.
Delsing, Dianne
Nauta, Arjen
Groeneveld, Andre
MacSharry, John
Cotter, Paul D.
van Sinderen, Douwe
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American Society for Microbiology
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Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are complex, multi-functional glycans present in human breast milk. They represent an intricate mix of heterogeneous structures which reach the infant intestine in an intact form as they resist gastrointestinal digestion. Therefore, they confer a multitude of benefits, directly and/or indirectly, to the developing neonate. Certain bifidobacterial species, being among the earliest gut colonizers of breast-fed infants, have an adapted functional capacity to metabolize various HMO structures. This ability is typically observed in infant-associated bifidobacteria, as opposed to bifidobacteria associated with a mature microbiota. In recent years, information has been gleaned regarding how these infant-associated bifidobacteria as well as certain other taxa are able to assimilate HMOs, including the mechanistic strategies enabling their acquisition and consumption. Additionally, complex metabolic interactions occur between microbes facilitated by HMOs, including the utilization of breakdown products released from HMO degradation. Interest in HMO-mediated changes in microbial composition and function has been the focal point of numerous studies, in recent times fueled by the availability of individual biosynthetic HMOs, some of which are now commonly included in infant formula. In this review, we outline the main HMO assimilatory and catabolic strategies employed by infant-associated bifidobacteria, discuss other taxa that exhibit breast milk glycan degradation capacity, and cover HMO-supported cross-feeding interactions and related metabolites that have been described thus far.
Infant microbiome , Human milk oligosaccharides , Gut microbiota , Infant , Bifidobacteria
Lordan, C., Roche, A. K., Delsing, D., Nauta, A., Groeneveld, A., MacSharry, J., Cotter, P. D. and van Sinderen. D. (2024) 'Linking human milk oligosaccharide metabolism and early life gut microbiota: bifidobacteria and beyond', Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews, 88(1), e00094-23 (38pp).
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