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"Designer fiber" for the precise manipulation of animal gut microbiomes

The projected expansion and importance of farming and aquaculture in feeding a growing human population requires the development of new sustainable feed ingredients that are beneficial for animal health and growth. In production systems, fibers with prebiotic effects have increasingly been considered to minimize the incidence of intestinal pathogens and altering the production of bacterial exo-metabolites. Through biorefining Norway Spruce wood, we produced a galactoglucomannan fiber with defined structure and investigated its effects as a new feed ingredient designed to enhance for beneficial bacteria in pig and salmon gut microbiomes.

This talk will present some of our own studies, which utilize a methodological toolset that combines traditional culturing, meta-omics (including next-generation sequencing and functional multi-omics), biochemistry and enzymology to determine, predict and visualize how galactoglucomannan actively stimulates health-promoting microorganisms within a complex endogenous microbiome.

We provide detailed mechanistic insights into galactoglucomannan degradation by gut microbes and highlight that catabolism of this fiber in microbiomes is a ‘team effort’, determined by interplays between primary degraders, cross-feeders and scavengers. This integrated biorefining and multi-omic approach gives a picture of how chemical structures that align with specific fiber-processing machineries of bacteria could be used to obtain predictable changes in microbiota composition and metabolic output, creating opportunities to develop strategies to promote or restore animal health and growth.