Genomic insights from Monoglobus pectinilyticus: a pectin-degrading specialist bacterium in the human colon

© 2019, International Society for Microbial Ecology. Pectin is abundant in modern day diets, as it comprises the middle lamellae and one-third of the dry carbohydrate weight of fruit and vegetable cell walls. Currently there is no specialized model organism for studying pectin fermentation in the human colon, as our collective understanding is informed by versatile glycan-degrading bacteria rather than by specialist pectin degraders. Here we show that the genome of Monoglobus pectinilyticus possesses a highly specialized glycobiome for pectin degradation, unique amongst Firmicutes known to be in the human gut. Its genome encodes a simple set of metabolic pathways relevant to pectin sugar utilization, and its predicted glycobiome comprises an unusual distribution of carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) with numerous extracellular methyl/acetyl esterases and pectate lyases. We predict the M. pectinilyticus degradative process is facilitated by cell-surface S-layer homology (SLH) domain-containing proteins, which proteomics analysis shows are differentially expressed in response to pectin. Some of these abundant cell surface proteins of M. pectinilyticus share unique modular organizations rarely observed in human gut bacteria, featuring pectin-specific CAZyme domains and the cell wall-anchoring SLH motifs. We observed M. pectinilyticus degrades various pectins, RG-I, and galactan to produce polysaccharide degradation products (PDPs) which are presumably shared with other inhabitants of the human gut microbiome (HGM). This strain occupies a new ecological niche for a primary degrader specialized in foraging a habitually consumed plant glycan, thereby enriching our understanding of the diverse community profile of the HGM.