Scientists find protein to boost power of probiotics

November 25th, 2009 - 3:19 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 25 (IANS) Scientists have isolated a protein that may help digestion.
“Probiotics need to interact with cells lining the gut (in the gastro-intestinal tract) to have a beneficial effect and if they attach to surfaces in the gut they are more likely to stick around long enough to exert their activity,” says Nathalie Juge from the Institute of Food Research (IFR).

IFR is an institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Britain, which funded the research.

The gut is the largest immune system organ in the body. The cells lining the gut are covered in a protective layer of mucus that is continuously renewed by specialised cells.

Besides protecting the gut lining, mucus provides an attachment site for probiotics that help maintain normal gut function.

Mucus adhesion has been well studied for pathogenic bacteria, but precisely what enables our gut bacteria to stick is not known. Both the IFR and University of East Anglia scientists have obtained the first crystal structure of a mucus-binding protein, says an IFR release.

The protein was obtained from a strain of Lactobacillus reuteri, a lactic acid bacterium naturally found in the gastrointestinal tract. Lactic acid bacteria are the most common microorganisms used as probiotics.

These findings were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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