Prebiotic potential of pectin and pectic oligosaccharides to promote anti-inflammatory commensal bacteria in the human colon

Wing Sun Faith Chung, Marjolein Meijerink, Birgitte Zeuner, Jesper Holck, Petra Louis, Anne S Meyer, Jerry M Wells, Harry J. Flint, Sylvia H. Duncan

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Dietary plant cell wall carbohydrates are important in modulating the composition and metabolism of the complex gut microbiota, which can impact on health. Pectin is a major component of plant cell walls. Based on studies in model systems and available bacterial isolates and genomes, the capacity to utilize pectins for growth is widespread among colonic Bacteroidetes but relatively uncommon among Firmicutes. One Firmicutes species promoted by pectin is Eubacterium eligens. E. eligens DSM3376 utilizes apple pectin and encodes a broad repertoire of pectinolytic enzymes, including a highly abundant pectate lyase of around 200 kDa that is expressed constitutively. We confirmed that certain Faecalibacterium prausnitzii strains possess some ability to utilize apple pectin and report here that F. prausnitzii strains in common with E. eligens, can utilize the galacturonide oligosaccharides DP4 and DP5 derived from sugar beet pectin. F. prausnitzii strains have been shown previously to exert anti-inflammatory effects on host cells, but we show here for the first time that E. eligens strongly promotes the production of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 in in vitro cell-based assays. These findings suggest the potential to explore further the prebiotic potential of pectin and its derivatives to re-balance the microbiota towards an anti-inflammatory profile.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfix127
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalFEMS Microbiology Ecology
Issue number11
Early online date3 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding: The authors acknowledge support from the Scottish Government Food Land and People programme

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Fergus Nicol and Louise Cantlay for
Proteomics analyses. WSFC was supported by a BBSRC - Case studentship (with Cargill Inc. as commercial partner


  • firmicutes
  • eubacterium eligens
  • faecalibacterium prausnitzii
  • bacteroides thetaiotaomicron
  • glycosyl hydrolase
  • pectate lyase


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