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Insoluble plant cell walls are a main source of dietary fiber. Both chemical and physical fiber structures create distinct niches for gut bacterial utilization. Here, we have taken key fermentable solubilized polysaccharides of plant cell walls and fabricated them back into cell wall-like film forms to understand how fiber physical structure directs gut bacterial fermentation outcomes. Solubilized corn bran arabinoxylan (Cax), extracted to retain some ferulate residues, was covalently linked using laccase to form an insoluble cell wall-like film (Cax-F) that was further embedded with pectin (CaxP-F). In vitro fecal fermentation using gut microbiota from three donors was performed on the films and soluble fibers. Depending on the donor, CaxP-F led to higher relative abundance of recognized beneficial bacteria and/or butyrate producers—Akkermansia, Bifidobacterium, Eubacterium halii, unassigned Lachnospiraceae, Blautia, and Anaerostipes—than free pectin and Cax, and Cax-F. Thus, physical form and location of fibers within cell walls form niches for some health-related gut bacteria. This work brings a new understanding of the importance of insoluble cell wall-associated fibers and shows that targeted fiber materials can be fabricated to support important gut microbiota taxa and metabolites of health significance.


This is the published version of the Bulut, N., Cantu-Jungles, T.M., Zhang, X. et al. Matrix-entrapped fibers create ecological niches for gut bacterial growth. Sci Rep 13, 1884 (2023).