Research at the University of York's Structural Biology Laboratory, in collaboration with groups in Canada, the USA and Sweden, has begun to uncover how our gut bacteria metabolise the complex dietary carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables.
Trillions of bacteria live in human intestines - there are about ten times more bacterial cells in the average person's body than human ones. Known as "microbiota", these bacteria have a vital role to play in human health: they are central to our metabolism and well-being.
The research team has uncovered how one group of gut bacteria, known as Bacteroidetes, digest complex sugars known as xyloglucans. These make up to 25 per cent of the dry weight of dietary fruit and vegetables including lettuce, onion, aubergine and tomatoes.
Understanding how these bacteria digest complex carbohydrates informs studies on a wide range of nutritional issues. These include prebiotics (the consumption of 'beneficial' micro-organisms as a food supplement) and probiotics (the consumption of foods or supplements intended to stimulate the production of healthy bacteria in the gut).
Researchers from the York Structural Biology Laboratory in the University's Department of Chemistry, and international collaborators have carried out detailed structural and mechanistic studies into the precise functioning of specific enzymes. This work has shed further light on which organisms can and cannot digest certain fruits and vegetables, and how and why the "good bacteria" do what they do.
Professor Gideon Davies, who led the research at York, said: "Despite our omnivorous diet, humans aren't well equipped to eat complex plant matter; for this we rely on our gut bacteria. This work is helping us to understand the science of that process.
"The possible implications for commerce and industry extend beyond the realm of human nutrition, however. The study of how enzymes break down plant matter is also of direct relevance to the development of processes for environmentally-friendly energy solutions such as biofuels." The research at York was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Caron Lett | EurekAlert!
Fast-tracking T cell therapies with immune-mimicking biomaterials
16.01.2018 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
Dengue takes low and slow approach to replication
12.01.2018 | Duke University
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
16.01.2018 | Life Sciences
16.01.2018 | Health and Medicine