The composition and activity of the microbiota in the human gastrointestinal tract are primarily shaped by nutrients derived from either food or the host. Bacteria colonizing the mucus layer have evolved to use mucin as a carbon and energy source. One of the members of the mucosa-associated microbiota is Akkermansia muciniphila, which is capable of producing an extensive repertoire of mucindegrading enzymes. To further study the substrate utilization abilities of A. muciniphila, we constructed a genome-scale metabolic model to test amino acid auxotrophy, vitamin biosynthesis, and sugar-degrading capacities. The model-supported predictions were validated by in vitro experiments, which showed A. muciniphila to be able to utilize the mucin-derived monosaccharides fucose, galactose, and N-acetylglucosamine. Growth was also observed on N-acetylgalactosamine, even though the metabolic model did not predict this. The uptake of these sugars, as well as the nonmucin sugar glucose, was enhanced in the presence of mucin, indicating that additional mucin-derived components are needed for optimal growth. An analysis of whole-transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) comparing the gene expression of A. muciniphila grown on mucin with that of the same bacterium grown on glucose confirmed the activity of the genes involved in mucin degradation and revealed most of these to be upregulated in the presence of mucin. The transcriptional response was confirmed by a proteome analysis, altogether revealing a hierarchy in the use of sugars and reflecting the adaptation of A. muciniphila to the mucosal environment. In conclusion, these findings provide molecular insights into the lifestyle of A. muciniphila and further confirm its role as a mucin specialist in the gut.
- Gut microbiota
- Metabolic modeling