Prebiotic role of softwood hemicellulose in healthy mice model

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Softwood hemicellulose is a rejected by-product of paper production from wood.

Hemicellulose glycans stimulate the growth of B. adolescentis, but much less that of adherent-invasive E. coli.

In mice fed with hemicellulose glycans, reshaping toward a less obesogenic microbiome was observed.

Fermentation metabolites sustained a health of a digestive tract and a health of an immune system.

These results highlight the value of hemicelluloses as a source of potential prebiotics.


We have analyzed the prebiotic effect of softwood hemicelluloses on specific bacterial species in vitro and on microbiota diversity and metabolism in healthy mice in vivo. The ethanol-precipitated glycans from the softwood hemicellulose autohydrolysate were able to stimulate in vitro the growth of Bifidobacterium adolescentis, but to a much lesser extent than that of adherent-invasive E. coli. B. adolescentis was the best producer of SCFA. When mice were fed with the ethanol precipitate fraction, the relative abundance of Bacteroidetes increased while that of Proteobacteria diminished, suggesting change towards a less obesogenic microbiome. Following treatment, lipid analysis showed a decrease in cholesterol, bile acids and free fatty acids, indicating a potential cardioprotection role. Furthermore, analysis of fermentation metabolites revealed an increase in metabolites important for immune health and well-being. Our results highlight the value of hemicelluloses as a potential source of prebiotics supporting both a healthy digestive tract and immune system.


Softwood hemicelluloses
Healthy mice model
Microbiota metabolites


Adherent-invasive Escherichia coli
AutoH UC
autohydrolysate ultrafiltrated and treated with activated charcoal
degree of polymerization
Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry
room temperature
short chain fatty acids
tryptic soy broth without dextrose

This work was in part supported by the LabEx Tec 21 (ANR-11-LABX-0030), Grenoble INP (Hemicellmed), the association GEFLUC Grenoble-Dauphiné-Savoie, Ligue contre le Cancer - Comité Isère and the association Espoir. CYB, and YYB are supported by Agence Nationale de la Recherche, France, the Atip-Avenir and Finovi programs, and the Laboratoire d’ Excellence Parafrap, France. The funding sources have not been involved in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the article for publication.

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