Identification and characterization of a glycosulfatase-encoding gene cluster in Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003

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Egan, Muireann
Jiang, Hao
O'Connell Motherway, Mary
Oscarson, Stefan
van Sinderen, Douwe
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Bifidobacteria constitute a specific group of commensal bacteria, typically found in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) of humans and other mammals. Bifidobacterium breve strains are numerically prevalent among the gut microbiota of many healthy breast-fed infants. In the current study, we investigated glycosulfatase activity in a bacterial nursling stool isolate, B. breve UCC2003. Two putative sulfatases were identified on the genome of B. breve UCC2003. The sulfated monosaccharide N-acetylglucosamine-6-sulfate (GlcNAc-6-S) was shown to support growth of B. breve UCC2003, while, N-acetylglucosamine-3-sulfate, N-acetylgalactosamine-3-sulfate and N-acetylgalactosamine-6-sulfate, did not support appreciable growth. Using a combination of transcriptomic and functional genomic approaches, a gene cluster, designated ats2, was shown to be specifically required for GlcNAc-6-S metabolism. Transcription of the ats2 cluster is regulated by a ROK-family transcriptional repressor. This study represents the first description of glycosulfatase activity within the Bifidobacterium genus. Bifidobacteria are saccharolytic organisms naturally found in the digestive tract of mammals and insects. Bifidobacterium breve strains utilize a variety of plant and host-derived carbohydrates which allow them to be present as prominent members of the infant gut microbiota as well as being present in the gastrointestinal tract of adults. In this study, we introduce a previously unexplored area of carbohydrate metabolism in bifidobacteria, namely the metabolism of sulfated carbohydrates. B. breve UCC2003 was shown to metabolize N-acetylglucosamine-6-sulfate (GlcNAc-6-S) through one of two sulfatase-encoding gene clusters identified on its genome. GlcNAc-6-S can be found in terminal or branched positions of mucin oligosaccharides, the glycoprotein component of the mucous layer that covers the digestive tract. The results of this study provide further evidence of this species' ability to utilize mucin-derived sugars, a trait which may provide a competitive advantage in both the infant and adult gut.
Bifidobacterium breve , Carbohydrate metabolism
Egan, M., Jiang, H., O'Connell Motherway, M., Oscarson, S. and Van Sinderen, D. (2016) ‘Identification and characterization of a glycosulfatase-encoding gene cluster in Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003’, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 82(22), pp. 6611-6623. doi: 10.1128/aem.02022-16
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