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Single cell fluorescence imaging of glycan uptake by intestinal bacteria

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Didier Ndeh



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2019, The Author(s). Microbes in the intestines of mammals degrade dietary glycans for energy and growth. The pathways required for polysaccharide utilization are functionally diverse; moreover, they are unequally dispersed between bacterial genomes. Hence, assigning metabolic phenotypes to genotypes remains a challenge in microbiome research. Here we demonstrate that glycan uptake in gut bacteria can be visualized with fluorescent glycan conjugates (FGCs) using epifluorescence microscopy. Yeast α-mannan and rhamnogalacturonan-II, two structurally distinct glycans from the cell walls of yeast and plants, respectively, were fluorescently labeled and fed to Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron VPI-5482. Wild-type cells rapidly consumed the FGCs and became fluorescent; whereas, strains that had deleted pathways for glycan degradation and transport were non-fluorescent. Uptake of FGCs, therefore, is direct evidence of genetic function and provides a direct method to assess specific glycan metabolism in intestinal bacteria at the single cell level.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hehemann J-H, Reintjes G, Klassen L, Smith AD, Ndeh D, Arnosti C, Amann R, Abbott DW

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: ISME Journal

Year: 2019

Volume: 13

Pages: 1883–1889

Print publication date: 01/07/2019

Online publication date: 01/04/2019

Acceptance date: 27/02/2019

Date deposited: 24/04/2019

ISSN (print): 1751-7362

ISSN (electronic): 1751-7370

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41396-019-0406-z


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Funder referenceFunder name
HE 7217/1-1
Max Planck Society