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Utilization of xylan-type polysaccharides in co-culture fermentations of Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides species
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Although most members of the genus Bifidobacterium are unable to utilize xylan as a carbon source, the growth of these species can be induced by this polysaccharide in the gut environment. This indicates a requirement for an association between Bifidobacterium species and some other members of gut microbiota. In this study, the role of cross-feeding between Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides species in the bifidogenic effect of xylan was investigated using in-vitro pure and co-culture fermentations. The pure culture studies showed that among the Bifidobacterium species tested, only Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis was able to utilize xylooligosaccharides. The co-culture of this strain with Bacteroides species enabled it to grow in the presence of xylan. These results suggest that the ability of Bacteroides species to hydrolyze xylan could allow the proliferation of specific Bifidobacterium species in the gut through substrate cross-feeding.