tuf gene sequence variation in Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis detected in the fecal microbiota of Chinese infants

© 2018 American Society for Microbiology. Members of the bacterial genus Bifidobacterium generally dominate the fecal microbiota of infants. The species Bifidobacterium longum is prevalent, but the B. longum subsp. longum and B. longum subsp. infantis strains that are known to colonize the infant bowel are not usually differentiated in microbiota investigations. These subspecies differ in their capacities to metabolize human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) and may have different ecological and symbiotic roles in humans. Quantitative PCR provides a quick analytical method by which to accurately ascertain the abundances of target species in microbiotas and microcosms. However, amplification targets in DNA extracted from samples need to be dependably differential. We evaluated the tuf gene sequence as a molecular target for quantitative PCR measurements of the abundances of B. longum subsp. infantis and B. longum subsp. longum in fecal microbiotas. This approach resulted in the detection of a tuf gene variant (operational taxonomic unit 49 [OTU49]) in Chinese infants that has sequence similarities to both B. longum subsp. infantis and B. longum subsp. longum. We compared the genome sequence and growth and transcriptional characteristics of an OTU49 isolate cultured in HMO medium to those of other B. longum subsp. infantis cultures. We concluded from these studies that OTU49 belongs to B. longum subsp. infantis, that dependable quantitative PCR (qPCR) differentiation between the B. longum subspecies cannot be achieved by targeting tuf gene sequences, and that functional genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism might be better targets because they delineate ecological functions.