The infant intestinal microbiota is often colonized by two subspecies of Bifidobacterium longum: subsp. Infantis (B. Infantis) and subsp. longum (B. longum). Competitive growth of B. Infantis in the neonate intestine has been linked to the utilization of human milk oligosaccharides (HMO). However, little is known how B. longum consumes HMO. In this study, infant-borne B. longum strains exhibited varying HMO growth phenotypes. While all strains efficiently utilized lacto-N-tetraose, certain strains additionally metabolized fucosylated HMO. B. longum SC596 grew vigorously on HMO, and glycoprofiling revealed a preference for consumption of fucosylated HMO. Transcriptomes of SC596 during early-stage growth on HMO were more similar to growth on fucosyllactose, transiting later to a pattern similar to growth on neutral HMO. B. longum SC596 contains a novel gene cluster devoted to the utilization of fucosylated HMO, including genes for import of fucosylated molecules, fucose metabolism and two α-fucosidases. This cluster showed a modular induction during early growth on HMO and fucosyllactose. This work clarifies the genomic and physiological variation of infant-borne B. longum to HMO consumption, which resembles B. Infantis. The capability to preferentially consume fucosylated HMO suggests a competitive advantage for these unique B. longum strains in the breast-fed infant gut.
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