Plant & Food Research scientists discover Monoglobus pectinilyticus

Gut bacteria adapting to New Zealanders' love of fruit and veg

New Zealand have discovered a gut bacterium that specialises in breaking down a hard-to-digest substance found in plants. This suggests that the human gut microbiome is evolving to accommodate our increased consumption of fibre-rich foods.

Plant & Food Research scientists discovered a new human gut bacterium: Monoglobus pectinilyticus. It is the first specialist bacterium for pectin degradation and utilisation. Pectin is a plant’s natural barrier to protect against bacterial attacks. It is also a primary source of dietary fibre for humans.

“M. pectinilyticus is a dedicated microorganism for breaking down pectin, a dietary fibre that makes up 40% of the plant cell wall in common fruits and vegetables such as kiwifruit and tomato,” says dr Caroline Kim, the Plant & Food Research scientist who leads the project. “The process wasn’t well-understood until now because few pectin-degrading bacteria exist and none as specialised as M. pectinilyticus."

The team analysed the faecal samples and dietary intakes of 44 healthy people in New Zealand over 10 weeks. They found that the presence of M. pectinilyticus positively correlates to the participants’ pectin consumption - the more fibre one eats, the more likely that this beneficial microorganism is present.

Scoop.co.nz reports that the study Genomic insights from Monoglobus pectinilyticus: a pectin-degrading specialist bacterium in the human colon, is published in the February 2019 issue of The ISME Journal, a top academic journal in microbial ecology.


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