BACKGROUND: An important trait of probiotics is their capability to reach their intestinal target sites alive to optimally exert their beneficial effects. Assessment of this trait in intestine-mimicking in vitro model systems has revealed differential survival of individual strains of a species. However, data on the in situ persistence characteristics of individual or mixtures of strains of the same species in the gastrointestinal tract of healthy human volunteers have not been reported to date. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The GI-tract survival of individual L. plantarum strains was determined using an intestine mimicking model system, revealing substantial inter-strain differences. The obtained data were correlated to genomic diversity of the strains using comparative genome hybridization (CGH) datasets, but this approach failed to discover specific genetic loci that explain the observed differences between the strains. Moreover, we developed a next-generation sequencing-based method that targets a variable intergenic region, and employed this method to assess the in vivo GI-tract persistence of different L. plantarum strains when administered in mixtures to healthy human volunteers. Remarkable consistency of the strain-specific persistence curves were observed between individual volunteers, which also correlated significantly with the GI-tract survival predicted on basis of the in vitro assay. CONCLUSION: The survival of individual L. plantarum strains in the GI-tract could not be correlated to the absence or presence of specific genes compared to the reference strain L. plantarum WCFS1. Nevertheless, in vivo persistence analysis in the human GI-tract confirmed the strain-specific persistence, which appeared to be remarkably similar in different healthy volunteers. Moreover, the relative strain-specific persistence in vivo appeared to be accurately and significantly predicted by their relative survival in the intestine-mimicking in vitro assay, supporting the use of this assay for screening of strain-specific GI persistence.
- human gastrointestinal-tract
- probiotic lactobacilli