Bifidobacterium carbohydrases-their role in breakdown and synthesis of (potential) prebiotics

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Abstract There is an increasing interest to positively influence the human intestinal microbiota through the diet by the use of prebiotics and/or probiotics. It is anticipated that this will balance the microbial composition in the gastrointestinal tract in favor of health promoting genera such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. Carbohydrates like non-digestible oligosaccharides are potential prebiotics. To understand how these bacteria can grow on these carbon sources, knowledge of the carbohydrate-modifying enzymes is needed. Little is known about the carbohydrate-modifying enzymes of bifidobacteria. The genome sequence of Bifidobacterium adolescentis and Bifidobacterium longum biotype longum has been completed and it was observed that for B. longum biotype longum more than 8% of the annotated genes were involved in carbohydrate metabolism. In addition more sequence data of individual carbohydrases from other Bifidobacterium spp. became available. Besides the degradation of (potential) prebiotics by bifidobacterial glycoside hydrolases, we will focus in this review on the possibilities to produce new classes of non-digestible oligosaccharides by showing the presence and (transglycosylation) activity of the most important carbohydrate modifying enzymes in bifidobacteria. Approaches to use and improve carbohydrate-modifying enzymes in prebiotic design will be discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-163
JournalMolecular Nutrition & Food Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • adolescentis dsm 20083
  • intestinal anaerobic bacterium
  • sequence-based classification
  • alpha-l-arabinofuranosidase
  • glycoside hydrolase family
  • lactic-acid bacteria
  • beta-d-galactosidase
  • sucrose phosphorylase
  • molecular-cloning
  • escherichia-coli


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