Author(s): Stack HM, Kearney N, Stanton C, Fitzgerald GF, Ross RP
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Abstract The exopolysaccharide beta-glucan has been reported to be associated with many health-promoting and prebiotic properties. The membrane-associated glycosyltransferase enzyme (encoded by the gtf gene), responsible for microbial beta-glucan production, catalyzes the conversion of sugar nucleotides into beta-glucan. In this study, the gtf gene from Pediococcus parvulus 2.6 was heterologously expressed in Lactobacillus paracasei NFBC 338. When grown in the presence of glucose (7\%, wt/vol), the recombinant strain (pNZ44-GTF(+)) displayed a "ropy" phenotype, while scanning electron microscopy (SEM) revealed strands of polysaccharide-linking neighboring cells. Beta-glucan biosynthesis was confirmed by agglutination tests carried out with Streptococcus pneumoniae type 37-specific antibodies, which specifically detect glucan-producing cells. Further analysis showed a approximately 2-fold increase in viscosity in broth media for the beta-glucan-producing strain over 24 h compared to the control strain, which did not show any significant increase in viscosity. In addition, we analyzed the ability of beta-glucan-producing Lactobacillus paracasei NFBC 338 to survive both technological and gastrointestinal stresses. Heat stress assays revealed that production of the polysaccharide was associated with significantly increased protection during heat stress (60-fold), acid stress (20-fold), and simulated gastric juice stress (15-fold). Bile stress assays revealed a more modest but significant 5.5-fold increase in survival for the beta-glucan-producing strain compared to that of the control strain. These results suggest that production of a beta-glucan exopolysaccharide by strains destined for use as probiotics may afford them greater performance/protection during cultivation, processing, and ingestion. As such, expression of the gtf gene may prove to be a straightforward approach to improve strains that might otherwise prove sensitive in such applications.
This article was published in Appl Environ Microbiol
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