Invited review: Application of omics tools to understanding probiotic functionality
The human gut microbiota comprises autochthonous species that colonize and reside at high levels permanently and allochthonous species that originate from another source and are transient residents of the human gut. The interactions between bacteria and the human host can be classified as a continuum from symbiosis and commensalism (mutualism) to pathogenesis. Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Recent advances in omics tools and sequencing techniques have furthered our understanding of probiotic functionality and the specific interactions between probiotics and their human hosts. Although it is known that not all probiotics use the same mechanisms to confer benefits on hosts, some specific mechanisms of action have been revealed through omic investigations. These include competitive exclusion, bacteriocin-mediated protection against intestinal pathogens, intimate interactions with mucin and the intestinal epithelium, and modulation of the immune system. The ability to examine fully sequenced and annotated genomes has greatly accelerated the application of genetic approaches to elucidate many important functional roles of probiotic microbes.