Published in this week’s issue of Nature, the finding provides first-ever clues on the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of gut microbiota, promising more effective probiotic therapies for a variety of disorders and diseases.
In recent years, new metagenomics techniques have enabled scientists to delve ever-deeper into the world of gut microbiota, revealing the strong influence that intestinal bacteria exert on our health. Bifidobacteria, one of the most numerous such bacteria, confer to their hosts a range of beneficial health effects, aiding in digestion, boosting the immune system and even reducing cancer risk. The mechanism underlying these effects, however, has remained a mystery.
With their study, the research team set out to unravel this mystery using a combination of techniques from genetics, transcriptomics and metabolomics. Initial experiments on so-called germ-free (GF) mice, whose guts are uncolonized by bacteria, revealed stark differences between bifidobacteria strains. The researchers found that mice colonized by one bifidobacterium subspecies, B. longum, were able to survive when fed the pathogenic bacteria E. coli O157, while GF mice without the bacteria died of infection within 7 days. Another strain named B. adolescentis, in contrast, had no such effect.
By analyzing fecal metabolic profiles, the researchers succeeded in pinpointing the source of this difference in the production of acetate, which they showed enhances intestinal epithelial defense and protects against infection from O157. The key actor in this mechanism is a carbohydrate transporter encoded by genes present in certain strains of bifidobacteria such as B. longum, which enables these bacteria to utilize fructose to produce acetate in the distal colon.
As a demonstration of the power of multi “omics” technologies, the identification of these “probiotic transporters” constitutes a milestone in the study of gut microbiota. The finding also demonstrates the power of multi “omics” technologies for analyzing the gut ecosystem, promising advancements in the development of cutting-edge probiotic therapies.
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Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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