Akkermansia muciniphila uses human milk oligosaccharides to thrive in the early life conditions in vitro

Kostopoulos, Ioannis; Elzinga, Janneke; Ottman, Noora; Klievink, Jay T.; Blijenberg, Bernadet; Aalvink, Steven; Boeren, Sjef; Mank, Marko; Knol, Jan; Vos, Willem M. de; Belzer, Clara


Akkermansia muciniphila is a well-studied anaerobic bacterium specialized in mucus degradation and associated with human health. Because of the structural resemblance of mucus glycans and free human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), we studied the ability of A. muciniphila to utilize human milk oligosaccharides. We found that A. muciniphila was able to grow on human milk and degrade HMOs. Analyses of the proteome of A. muciniphila indicated that key-glycan degrading enzymes were expressed when the bacterium was grown on human milk. Our results display the functionality of the key-glycan degrading enzymes (α-l-fucosidases, β-galactosidases, exo-α-sialidases and β-acetylhexosaminidases) to degrade the HMO-structures 2′-FL, LNT, lactose, and LNT2. The hydrolysation of the host-derived glycan structures allows A. muciniphila to promote syntrophy with other beneficial bacteria, contributing in that way to a microbial ecological network in the gut. Thus, the capacity of A. muciniphila to utilize human milk will enable its survival in the early life intestine and colonization of the mucosal layer in early life, warranting later life mucosal and metabolic health.