Environmental and Gut Bacteroidetes: The Food Connection

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Members of the diverse bacterial phylum Bacteroidetes have colonized virtually all types of habitats on Earth. They are among the major members of the microbiota of animals, especially in the gastrointestinal tract, can act as pathogens and are frequently found in soils, oceans and freshwater. In these contrasting ecological niches, Bacteroidetes are increasingly regarded as specialists for the degradation of high molecular weight organic matter, i.e., proteins and carbohydrates. This review presents the current knowledge on the role and mechanisms of polysaccharide degradation by Bacteroidetes in their respective habitats. The recent sequencing of Bacteroidetes genomes confirms the presence of numerous carbohydrate-active enzymes covering a large spectrum of substrates from plant, algal, and animal origin. Comparative genomics reveal specific Polysaccharide Utilization Loci shared between distantly related members of the phylum, either in environmental or gut-associated species.

Moreover, Bacteroidetes genomes appear to be highly plastic and frequently reorganized through genetic rearrangements, gene duplications and lateral gene transfers (LGT), a feature that could have driven their adaptation to distinct ecological niches. Evidence is accumulating that the nature of the diet shapes the composition of the intestinal microbiota. We address the potential links between gut and environmental bacteria through food consumption. LGT can provide gut bacteria with original sets of utensils to degrade otherwise refractory substrates found in the diet. A more complete understanding of the genetic gateways between food-associated environmental species and intestinal microbial communities sheds new light on the origin and evolution of Bacteroidetes as animals’ symbionts. It also raises the question as to how the consumption of increasingly hygienic and processed food deprives our microbiota from useful environmental genes and possibly affects our health.

Skinny Man. Man without skin.

Keywords: Bacteroidetes, adaptation to environmental niches, microbiota

Skin Biome Diagram

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Skin Biome Diagram

Actinobacteria are a group of Gram-positive bacteria with high guanine and cytosine content in their DNA, which can be terrestrial or aquatic. Though they are unicellular like bacteria, they do not have distinct cell wall, but they produce a mycelium that is nonseptate and more slender.

Proteobacteria is a major phylum of Gram-negative bacteria. They include a wide variety of pathogens, such as Escherichia, Salmonella, Vibrio, Helicobacter, Yersinia, Legionellales and many other notable genera. Others are free-living (non-parasitic) and include many of the bacteria responsible for nitrogen fixation.

Cyanobacteria also known as Cyanophyta, are a phylum of bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis and are the only photosynthetic prokaryotes able to produce oxygen. The name cyanobacteria comes from the color of the bacteria.

Bacteroidetes are gram-negative bacteria that ferment polysaccharides and otherwise indigestible carbohydrates and produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that have many beneficial effects in the gut.