Human gut Faecalibacterium prausnitzii deploy a highly efficient conserved system to cross-feed on β-mannan-derived oligosaccharides

Lars J. Lindstad, Galiana Lo, Shaun Leivers, Zijia Lu, Leszek Michalak, Gabriel V. Pereira, Åsmund K. Røhr, Eric C. Martens, Lauren S. McKee, Petra Louis, Sylvia H. Duncan, Bjørge Westereng, Phillip B. Pope, Sabina Leanti La Rosa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
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β-Mannans are hemicelluloses that are abundant in modern diets as components in seed endosperms and common additives in processed food. Currently, the collective understanding of β-mannan saccharification in the human colon is limited to a few keystone species, which presumably liberate low-molecular-weight mannooligosaccharide fragments that become directly available to the surrounding microbial community. Here we show that a dominant butyrate-producer in the human gut, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, is able to acquire and degrade various β32 mannooligosaccharides (β-MOS), which are derived by the primary mannanolytic activity of neighboring gut microbiota. Detailed biochemical analyses of selected protein components from their two β-mannooligosaccharide (β-MOS) utilization loci (FpMULs) supported a concerted model whereby the imported β-MOS are stepwise disassembled intracellularly by highly adapted enzymes. Coculturing experiments of F. prausnitzii with the primary degraders Bacteroides ovatus and Roseburia intestinalis on polymeric β-mannan resulted in syntrophic growth, thus confirming the high efficiency of the FpMULs’ uptake system. Genomic comparison with human F. prausnitzii strains and analyses of 2441 public human metagenomes revealed that FpMULs are highly conserved and distributed worldwide. Together, our results provide a significant advance in the knowledge of β-mannan metabolism and the
degree to which its degradation is mediated by cross-feeding interactions between prominent beneficial microbes in the human gut.
Importance. Commensal butyrate-producing bacteria belonging to the Firmicutes phylum are abundant in the human gut and are crucial for maintaining health. Currently, insight is lacking into how they target otherwise indigestible dietary fibers and into the trophic interactions they establish with other glycan degraders in the competitive gut environment. By combining cultivation, genomic and detailed biochemical analyses this work reveals the mechanism enabling F. prausnitzii, as a model Ruminococcaceae within Firmicutes, to cross-feed and access β-mannan52 derived oligosaccharides released in the gut ecosystem by the action of primary degraders. A comprehensive survey of human gut metagenomes shows that FpMULs are ubiquitous in human populations globally, highlighting the importance of microbial metabolism of β-mannans/β-MOS as a common dietary component. Our findings provide a mechanistic understanding of the β-MOS utilization capability by F. prausnitzii that may be exploited to select dietary formulations specifically boosting this beneficial symbiont, thus butyrate production, in the gut.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03628-20
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


  • β-Mannan
  • β-Mannoligosaccharides
  • Butyrate-producer
  • Short-Chain Fatty Acids
  • Carbohydrate Active Enzymes
  • Human Gut Microbiota
  • cross-feeding interactions


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