Bifidobacteria constitute a specific group of commensal bacteria that inhabit the gastrointestinal tracts of humans and other mammals. Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 has previously been shown to utilize several plant-derived carbohydrates that include cellodextrins, starch, and galactan. In the present study, we investigated the ability of this strain to utilize the mucin- and human milk oligosaccharide (HMO)-derived carbohydrate sialic acid. Using a combination of transcriptomic and functional genomic approaches, we identified a gene cluster dedicated to the uptake and metabolism of sialic acid. Furthermore, we demonstrate that B. breve UCC2003 can cross feed on sialic acid derived from the metabolism of 3'-sialyllactose, an abundant HMO, by another infant gut bifidobacterial strain, Bifidobacterium bifidum PRL2010.
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