Nutritional strategies for mucosal health : the interplay between microbes and mucin glycans

Belzer, Clara


Many aspects of the mechanisms underlying the symbiosis between humans and gut microbes remain unknown and encompass some of the most intriguing questions in microbiome research. An important factor in this symbiosis is the interplay between microbes and human-produced glycans in mucin and breast milk. In this Opinion paper, I propose a synergy between the structural diversity of human mucin glycans and the enzymatic repertoire of the gut microbiome. The contribution of microbes to mucosal health is discussed, and the role of breast milk glycans in mucosal colonization by microbes is explained. The use of prebiotic mucin glycans in general, and specialized infant and medical nutrition in particular, should be considered as the field of interest to modulate the microbiota and improve mucosal health.