Interactions of surface exopolysaccharides from bifidobacteriumand lactobacilluswithin the intestinal environment

Nuria Castro-Bravo, Jerry M. Wells, Abelardo Margolles, Patricia Ruas-Madiedo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Exopolysaccharides (EPS) are surface carbohydrate polymers present in most bacteria acting as a protective surface layer but also interacting with the surrounding environment. This review discusses the roles of EPS synthesized by strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, many of them with probiotic characteristics, in the intestinal environment. Current knowledge on genetics and biosynthesis pathways of EPS in lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria, as well as the development of genetic tools, has created possibilities to elucidate the interplay between EPS and host intestinal mucosa. These include the microbiota that inhabits this ecological niche and the host cells. Several carbohydrate recognition receptors located in the intestinal epithelium could be involved in the interaction with bacterial EPS and modulation of immune response; however, little is known about the receptors recognizing EPS from lactobacilli or bifidobacteria and the triggered response. On the contrary, it has been clearly demonstrated that EPS play a relevant role in the persistence of the producing bacteria in the intestinal tract. Indeed, some authors postulate that some of the beneficial actions of EPS-producing probiotics could be related to the formation of a biofilm layer protecting the host against injury, for example by pathogens or their toxins. Nevertheless, the in vivo formation of biofilms by probiotics has not been proved to date. Finally, EPS produced by probiotic strains are also able to interact with the intestinal microbiota that populates the gut. In fact, some of these polymers can be used as carbohydrate fermentable source by some gut commensals thus being putatively involved in the release of bacterial metabolites that exert positive benefits for the host. In spite of the increasing knowledge about the role that these surface molecules play in the interaction of probiotic bacteria with the gut mucosal actors, both intestinal receptors and microbiota, the challenging issue is to demonstrate the functionality of EPS in vivo, which will open an avenue of opportunities for the application of EPS-producing probiotics to improve health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2426
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberOCT
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2018


  • Adhesion
  • Exopolysaccharide
  • Innate-immunity
  • Intestinal-receptors
  • Microbiota

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