Letter | Published:

Bifidobacteria can protect from enteropathogenic infection through production of acetate

Nature volume 469, pages 543547 (27 January 2011) | Download Citation


The human gut is colonized with a wide variety of microorganisms, including species, such as those belonging to the bacterial genus Bifidobacterium, that have beneficial effects on human physiology and pathology1,2,3. Among the most distinctive benefits of bifidobacteria are modulation of host defence responses and protection against infectious diseases4,5,6. Nevertheless, the molecular mechanisms underlying these effects have barely been elucidated. To investigate these mechanisms, we used mice associated with certain bifidobacterial strains and a simplified model of lethal infection with enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7, together with an integrated ‘omics’ approach. Here we show that genes encoding an ATP-binding-cassette-type carbohydrate transporter present in certain bifidobacteria contribute to protecting mice against death induced by E. coli O157:H7. We found that this effect can be attributed, at least in part, to increased production of acetate and that translocation of the E. coli O157:H7 Shiga toxin from the gut lumen to the blood was inhibited. We propose that acetate produced by protective bifidobacteria improves intestinal defence mediated by epithelial cells and thereby protects the host against lethal infection.

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Primary accessions

Gene Expression Omnibus

Data deposits

Microarray data have been deposited in the NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus under accession number GSE13061. Sequences for the B. longum genomes have been deposited in the DNA Data Bank of Japan, GenBank and the EMBL Nucleotide Sequence Database under accession numbers AP010888, AP010889, AP010890, AP010891 and AP010892.


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We thank H. Kitamura and M. E. Mariotti-Ferrandiz for discussions and for reading the manuscript; T. Morita for suggestions; and C. Nishigaki, M. Ohmae, Y. Chiba, T. Kato, H. Shima, A. Nakano, K. Sakaguchi, K. Furuya, C. Yoshino, H. Inaba, E. Iioka, K. Motomura and Y. Hattori for technical support. This research was supported in part by grants from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan: a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Priority Areas ‘Comprehensive Genomics’ (M.H.), ‘Membrane Traffic’ (H.O.) and ‘Matrix of Infectious Phenomena’ (K.H.); Young Scientists (S.F., K.H. and J.K.); Challenging Exploratory Research (J.K.); Scientific Research (H.O.); and Scientific Research on Innovative Areas ‘Intracellular Logistics’ (H.O.). This work was also supported in part by a RIKEN President’s Special Research Grant (J.K.); a RIKEN DRI Research Grant (S.F.); a CREST grant from the Japan Science and Technology Agency (J.K.); the Danone Institute of Japan (H.O.); the Institute for Fermentation, Osaka (S.F.); the Kieikai Research Foundation (S.F.); the Naito Foundation (S.F.); the Nestlé Nutrition Council, Japan (S.F.); the Sasakawa Scientific Research Grant from the Japan Science Society (S.F. and Y.N.); the Yakult Bio-Science Foundation (S.F.); the Academic Frontier Project for Private Universities (Matching Fund Subsidy (H.M.)); and the Private University Scientific Foundation (H.M.).

Author information


  1. Laboratory for Epithelial Immunobiology, RIKEN Research Center for Allergy and Immunology, 1-7-22 Suehiro-cho, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 230-0045, Japan

    • Shinji Fukuda
    • , Koji Hase
    • , Yumiko Nakanishi
    •  & Hiroshi Ohno
  2. Graduate School of Nanobioscience, Yokohama City University, 1-7-29 Suehiro-cho, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 230-0045, Japan

    • Shinji Fukuda
    • , Yumiko Nakanishi
    • , Jun Kikuchi
    •  & Hiroshi Ohno
  3. MetaSystems Research Team, RIKEN Advanced Science Institute, 1-7-22 Suehiro-cho, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 230-0045, Japan

    • Hidehiro Toh
    •  & Todd D. Taylor
  4. Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 5-1-5 Kashiwanoha, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8561, Japan

    • Kenshiro Oshima
    •  & Masahira Hattori
  5. Advanced NMR Metabomics Research Team, RIKEN Plant Science Center, 1-7-22 Suehiro-cho, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 230-0045, Japan

    • Yumiko Nakanishi
    •  & Jun Kikuchi
  6. Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 1-1-1 Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8657, Japan

    • Kazutoshi Yoshimura
    •  & Kikuji Itoh
  7. Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, 2-2 Yamada-oka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan

    • Toru Tobe
  8. Preventative Health National Research Flagship, CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences, Adelaide, South Australia 5000, Australia

    • Julie M. Clarke
    •  & David L. Topping
  9. The United Graduate School of Agricultural Science, Gifu University, 1-1 Yanagido, Gifu 501-1193, Japan

    • Tohru Suzuki
  10. Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences, Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya, Aichi 464-8601, Japan

    • Jun Kikuchi
  11. School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, 1-17-71 Fuchinobe, Sagamihara, Kanagawa 229-8501, Japan

    • Hidetoshi Morita
  12. Graduate School of Medicine, Chiba University, 1-8-1 Inohana, Chuo-ku, Chiba 260-8670, Japan

    • Hiroshi Ohno


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S.F., K.I., M.H. and H.O. conceived and designed the experiments. S.F., Y.N., K.H., K.Y., K.O., H.M. and K.I. performed the experiments. S.F., H.T. and Y.N. analysed the data. T.T., J.M.C., D.L.T., T.S., T.D.T., J.K. and M.H. contributed reagents, materials and analysis tools. S.F., H.T., K.H., T.D.T., M.H. and H.O. wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Masahira Hattori or Hiroshi Ohno.

Supplementary information

PDF files

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    Supplementary Information

    The file contains Supplementary Figures 1-12 with legends and Supplementary Tables 1-12.

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Table 13

    This table contains 1H NMR profiling raw data.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Table 14

    This table contains 1H-13C correlation NMR profiling raw data.

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