Comparative genomics reveals the regulatory complexity of Bifidobacterial arabinose and Arabino-oligosaccharide utilization

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Arzamasov, Aleksandr A.
van Sinderen, Douwe
Rodionov, Dmitry A.
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Members of the genus Bifidobacterium are common inhabitants of the human gastrointestinal tract. Previously it was shown that arabino-oligosaccharides (AOS) might act as prebiotics and stimulate the bifidobacterial growth in the gut. However, despite the rapid accumulation of genomic data, the precise mechanisms by which these sugars are utilized and associated transcription control still remain unclear. In the current study, we used a comparative genomic approach to reconstruct arabinose and AOS utilization pathways in over 40 bacterial species belonging to the Bifidobacteriaceae family. The results indicate that the gene repertoire involved in the catabolism of these sugars is highly diverse, and even phylogenetically close species may differ in their utilization capabilities. Using bioinformatics analysis we identified potential DNA-binding motifs and reconstructed putative regulons for the arabinose and AOS utilization genes in the Bifidobacteriaceae genomes. Six LacI-family transcriptional factors (named AbfR, AauR, AauU1, AauU2, BauR1 and BauR2) and a TetR-family regulator (XsaR) presumably act as local repressors for AOS utilization genes encoding various alpha- or beta-L-arabinofuranosidases and predicted AOS transporters. The ROK-family regulator AraU and the LacI-family regulator AraQ control adjacent operons encoding putative arabinose transporters and catabolic enzymes, respectively. However, the AraQ regulator is universally present in all Bifidobacterium species including those lacking the arabinose catabolic genes araBDA, suggesting its control of other genes. Comparative genomic analyses of prospective AraQ-binding sites allowed the reconstruction of AraQ regulons and a proposed binary repression/activation mechanism. The conserved core of reconstructed AraQ regulons in bifidobacteria includes araBDA, as well as genes from the central glycolytic and fermentation pathways (pyk, eno, gap, tkt, tal, galM, ldh). The current study expands the range of genes involved in bifidobacterial arabinose/AOS utilization and demonstrates considerable variations in associated metabolic pathways and regulons. Detailed comparative and phylogenetic analyses allowed us to hypothesize how the identified reconstructed regulons evolved in bifidobacteria. Our findings may help to improve carbohydrate catabolic phenotype prediction and metabolic modeling, while it may also facilitate rational development of novel prebiotics.
Bifidobacteria , Arabinose , Arabino-oligosaccharides , Prebiotics , Regulatory networks , Transcription factors , Comparative genomics
Arzamasov, A. A., van Sinderen, D. and Rodionov, D. A. (2018) 'Comparative genomics reveals the regulatory complexity of Bifidobacterial arabinose and Arabino-oligosaccharide utilization', Frontiers in Microbiology, 9, 776 (17pp). doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.00776