Cross-Feeding among Probiotic Bacterial Strains on Prebiotic Inulin Involves the Extracellular exo-Inulinase of Lactobacillus paracasei Strain W20

Markus C. L. Boger, Alicia Lammerts van Bueren, Lubbert Dijkhuizen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Probiotic gut bacteria employ specific metabolic pathways to degrade dietary carbohydrates beyond the capabilities of their human host. Here, we report how individual commercial probiotic strains degrade prebiotic (inulin type) fructans. First, a structural analysis of commercial fructose oligosaccharide-inulin samples was performed. These beta-(2-1)-fructans differ in termination by either glucose (GF) or fructose (FF) residues, with a broad variation in the degrees of polymerization (DPs). The growth of individual probiotic bacteria on short-chain inulin (sc-inulin) (Frutafit CLR), a beta-(2-1)-fructan (DP 2 to DP 40), was studied. Lactobacillus salivarius W57 and other bacteria grew relatively poorly on sc-inulin, with only fractions of DP 3 and DP 5 utilized, reflecting uptake via specific transport systems followed by intracellular metabolism. Lactobacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei W20 completely used all sc-inulin components, employing an extracellular exo-inulinase enzyme (glycoside hydrolase family GH32 [LpGH32], also found in other strains of this species); the purified enzyme converted high-DP compounds into fructose, sucrose, 1-kestose, and F2 (inulobiose). The cocultivation of L. salivarius W57 and L. paracasei W20 on sc-inulin resulted in cross-feeding of the former by the latter, supported by this extracellular exo-inulinase. The extent of cross-feeding depended on the type of fructan, i.e., the GF type (clearly stimulating) versus the FF type (relatively low stimulus), and on fructan chain length, since relatively low-DP beta-(2-1)-fructans contain a relatively high content of GF-type molecules, thus resulting in higher concentrations of GF- type DP 2 to DP 3 degradation products. The results provide an example of how in vivo cross-feeding on prebiotic beta-(2-1)-fructans may occur among probiotic lactobacilli.

IMPORTANCE The human gut microbial community is associated strongly with host physiology and human diseases. This observation has prompted research on pre- and probiotics, two concepts enabling specific changes in the composition of the human gut microbiome that result in beneficial effects for the host. Here, we show how fructooligosaccharide-inulin prebiotics are fermented by commercial probiotic bacterial strains involving specific sets of enzymes and transporters. Cross-feeding strains such as Lactobacillus paracasei W20 may thus act as keystone strains in the degradation of prebiotic inulin in the human gut, and this strain-exo-inulinase combination may be used in commercial Lactobacillus-inulin synbiotics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01539-18
Number of pages16
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2018


  • cross-feeding
  • Lactobacillus paracasei
  • exo-inulinase
  • inulin
  • probiotics


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