Mucin degradation in the human gastrointestinal tract and its significance to enteric microbial ecology


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Abstract

Degradation of the gut mucus gel layer involves the combined actions of enteric bacterial glycosidases and esterases as well as host and microbial proteinases. Degradation of the carbohydrate chains of mucin glycoproteins involves glycosidases and glycosulfatases produced by specialized strains of normal enteric bacteria, resulting in the release of component monosaccharides which can be used as a source of nutrition by other, larger populations. Such functional specialization provides an ecological niche for enzyme-producing specialists and is likely to be a contributing factor to microbial diversity in enteric bacterial ecosystems.

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