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Title:
PROBIOTIC BIFIDOBACTERIUM ADOLESCENTIS STRAINS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/030504
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to novel isolated strains of Bifidobacterium adolescentis which are capable of i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after 10h treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10, and/or iii) inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells. The strains may have one, two or all three of these capabilities. The present invention relates to the use of these novel strains for the in prevention, alleviation of symptoms, and treatment of diseases or conditions with an underlying impaired intestinal barrier function and pro-inflammatory activation of the mucosa. More specifically, the present invention relates to se of an isolated strain according to the invention for the prevention, alleviation of symptoms, or treatment of intestinal inflammatory conditions such as IBD and IBS, liver diseases such as NAFLD, NASH, cirrhosis, and alcohol-related liver disease, metabolic disorders such as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular atherosclerosis, autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and mental conditions such as major depressive disorders, a mood disorder, a cognitive chronic fatigue syndrome, and anxiety.

Inventors:
LESER, Thomas Dyrmann (Bülowsvej 9, 1. tv, Frederiksberg C, DK-1870, DK)
MYLING-PETERSEN, Dorte (Hovedgaden 35B, Hoersholm, DK-2970, DK)
CHRISTENSEN, Jeffrey Earl (13 Route du Pech, Colannes de Rohanne Appt. 11B, Lavaur, F-81500, FR)
WELLEJUS, Anja (Lars Madsensvej 13, Frederiksvaerk, DK-3300, DK)
BROCKMANN, Elke (Skovledet 183, Hilleroed, DK-3400, DK)
Application Number:
EP2015/069740
Publication Date:
March 03, 2016
Filing Date:
August 28, 2015
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
CHR. HANSEN A/S (Boege Alle 10-12, 2970 Hoersholm, DK-2970, DK)
International Classes:
C12N1/20; A61K35/745; C12R1/01
Domestic Patent References:
WO2002038798A12002-05-16
Other References:
MITSUOKA T ET AL: "Ecology of the bifidobacteria", THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION, AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR NUTRITION, US, vol. 30, no. 11, 1 November 1977 (1977-11-01), pages 1799 - 1810, XP008091180, ISSN: 0002-9165
JOHN W FUQUAY; PATRICK J FOX; PAUL L H MCSWEENEY: "Encyclopedia of dairy sciences", 1 January 2011, ELSEVIER/ACADEMIC PRESS, Amsterdam ; Boston, MA, article N.P. SHAH: "Bacteria, Beneficial/ Bifidobacterium spp.: Morphology and Physiology", XP008178101
YAESHIMA T ET AL: "THE DIVERSITY IN PHENOTYPIC CHARACTERISTICS OF BIFIDOBACTERIUM-LONGUM", MILCHWISSENSCHAFT, VV GMBH VOLKSWIRTSCHAFTLICHER VERLAG. MUNCHEN, DE, vol. 47, no. 4, 1 January 1992 (1992-01-01), pages 212 - 214, XP008174787, ISSN: 0026-3788
T. POZO-RUBIO ET AL: "Immunostimulatory effect of faecal Bifidobacterium species of breast-fed and formula-fed infants in a peripheral blood mononuclear cell/Caco-2 co-culture system", BRITISH JOURNAL OF NUTRITION, vol. 106, no. 08, 31 May 2011 (2011-05-31), pages 1216 - 1223, XP055167873, ISSN: 0007-1145, DOI: 10.1017/S0007114511001656
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Claims:
An isolated strain of Bifidobacterium adolescentis characterized in that

(i) it ferments D-ribose;

(ii) it does not ferment D-sorbitol; and

(iii) the 16S ribosomal gene sequence comprises SEQ ID NOs: l or 2; SEQ ID NOs: 3, 4 or 5; SEQ ID NOs: 6, 7, 8 or 9; and SEQ ID NOs: 10 or 11.

An isolated strain according to claim 1 which is capable of increasing the trans- epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start.

An isolated strain according to claim 1 or 2 which is capable of inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10, when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells.

An isolated strain according to any one of claims 1 to 3 which is capable of inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells.

An isolated strain according to any one of claims 1 to 4 which is selected from the group consisting of DSM 29103, DSM 29104, DSM 29106, DSM 29107, DSM 29111, DSM 29102 and DSM 29105 and a mutant of any of said deposited strains which is capable of

i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start; ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10; and/or

iii) inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio >1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells.

An isolated strain according to claim 5 which is selected from the group consisting of DSM 29103, DSM 29104, DSM 29106, DSM 29107, DSM 29111, DSM 29102 and DSM 29105.

An isolated strain according to claim 6 which is the Bifidobacterium adolescentis strain deposited as DSM 29103.

A probiotic product comprising an isolated strain according to any one of claims 1 to 7 and a cryoprotectant.

9. A probiotic product according to claim 8 wherein the cryoprotectant is a saccharide.

10. An isolated strain according to any one of claims 1 to 7 or a probiotic product according to claim 8 or 9 for use in prevention, alleviation of symptoms, and/or treatment of an intestinal inflammatory condition such as IBD and IBS, a liver disease such as NAFLD, NASH, cirrhosis, or alcohol-related liver disease, a metabolic disorder such as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular atherosclerosis, an autoimmune disease, such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, and/or a mental condition such as major depressive disorder, a mood disorder, a cognitive disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, or anxiety.

11. A method for improving the intestinal barrier function, said method comprising administering a therapeutically effective dose of an isolated strain according to any one of claims 1 to 7 or a probiotic product according to claim 8 or 9 to an individual in need thereof.

12. A method for eliciting an anti-inflammatory immune response, said method

comprising administering a therapeutically effective dose of an isolated strain according to any one of claims 1 to 7 or a probiotic product according to claim 8 or 9 to an individual in need thereof.

13. A method according to claim 12, wherein said method induces secretion of IL-10.

14. A method according to claim 12 or 13, wherein said method induces an IL-10:IL- 12 ratio > 1.

15. A method for the prevention, alleviation of symptoms, and/or treatment of an intestinal inflammatory condition such as IBD and IBS, a liver disease such as

NAFLD, NASH, cirrhosis, or alcohol-related liver disease, a metabolic disorder such as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular atherosclerosis, an autoimmune disease, such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, and/or a mental condition such as major depressive disorder, a mood disorder, a cognitive disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, or anxiety, the method comprising administering a therapeutically effective dose of an isolated strain according to any one of claims 1 to 7 or a probiotic product according to claim 8 or 9 to an individual in need thereof.

Description:
TITLE

Probiotic Bifidobacterium adolescentis strains FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to novel isolated strains of Bifidobacterium adolescentis which are capable of i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10, and/or iii) inducing an IL-10 : IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells. The strains may have one, two or all three of these capabilities.

Further, the invention relates to the use of these strains for improving the intestinal barrier function and/or eliciting an anti-inflammatory immune response.

One embodiment of the invention relates to a Bifidobacterium adolescentis strain which ferments D-ribose, do not ferment D-sorbitol, and has a 16S ribosomal gene sequence which comprises SEQ ID NOs : l or 2; SEQ ID NOs : 3, 4 or 5; SEQ ID NOs : 6, 7, 8 or 9; and SEQ ID NOs : 10 or 11.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Bifidobacteria are natural inhabitants of the gastrointestinal tract possessing genetic adaptations that enable colonization of this harsh and complex habitat. Bifidobacteria interact with key elements of intestinal functioning and contribute to maintaining homeostasis. Recent scientific progress has demonstrated that bifidobacteria, through strain-dependent interactions with the host may reduce mucosal antigen load, improve the intestinal barrier, and induce regulation of local and systemic immune responses. Due to their recognized benefits to human health bifidobacteria are used as probiotics. Probiotics are "live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host" (FAO/WHO, 2001) . About a dozen Bifidobacterium strains with clinically documented effects are commercially available. Half of these are Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis strains and the remaining are Bifidobacterium longum subsp. longum, B. longum subsp. infantis, or Bifidobacterium breve strains. The type strain of Bifidobacterium adolescentis (ATCC15703 7 ) was isolated from the intestine of an adult (Reuter, 1971) . Strains of B. adolescentis are frequently detected in the adult human intestinal tract (Turroni et al ., 2009) .

The intestinal epithelium is the columnar and nonciliated cell layer that covers the small and large intestine. The intestinal epithelial layer constitutes the largest and most important barrier against the external environment and maintaining epithelial integrity is essential to preserving health. The epithelial lining consists of a single layer of epithelial cells covered by layers of mucus produced by specialized goblet cells. Underneath the epithelial cells is the lamina propria containing a variety of immune cells (Gut-associated lymphoid tissue; GALT). Epithelial cells are joined together by cell junctions of which tight junctions (TJ) play a major role in preventing molecules to enter the epithelium between cells.

TJ are responsible for restricting paracellular (between cells) diffusion of proteins, lipids and small solutes. Thus, in a healthy epithelium only water and small molecules (ions) penetrate paracelluarly while transport of larger molecules is regulated by cellular uptake mechanisms. TJ consist of proteins spanning the space between two adjacent intestinal epithelial cells. TJ are dynamic structures that are involved in developmental, physiological and pathological processes. Various stressors may cause weakening of TJ, thus increasing paracellular (un-regulated) transport of molecules into the mucosa. A compromised gut barrier function is characterized by increased permeability of the intestinal mucosa to luminal macromolecules, antigens, and toxins which may cause inflammation, degeneration and/or atrophy of the mucosa. This condition, sometimes referred to as 'leaky gut syndrome' is associated with a multitude of symptoms depending on severity. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) derived from Gram-negative bacteria in the intestine are very potent activators of the immune response. Once the mucosal immune system is activated pro-inflammatory mediators aggravates the opening of TJ resulting in a vicious circle of increasing permeability and inflammation.

Probiotic bacterial strains have been shown to decrease intestinal epithelial permeability, in vitro (Anderson et al., 2010; Karczewski et al., 2010; Liu et al., 2010a, Liu et al., 2010b, Donato et al., 2010), in mouse models (Generoso et al., 2010; Liu et al., 2011; Miyauchi et al., 2009), and in humans (Karczewski et al., 2010). Generally good agreement between in vitro and in vivo results has been found. Mechanisms involved in probiotic improving of barrier function include increased expression of TJ proteins, such as occludin, claudin-1, Fll receptor (FUR), and zona occludens 1 (ZO-1) and 2 (Anderson et al., 2010; Liu et al., 2010a; Liu et al., 2010b; Miyauchi et al., 2009; Ukena et al., 2007. Increased localization of occludin and ZO-1 to the vicinity of TJ structures was found in human biopsies (Karczewski et al., 2010) and in Caco-2 monolayers treated with L. plantarum WCFS1 (Karczewski et al., 2010), or L. rhamnosus LGG (Donato et al., 2010), possibly involving Toll-like (TLR) receptor 2 signaling (Karczewski et al., 2010). In a neonatal mouse model of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) intestinal permeability increases were found to precede NEC, while B. infantis BB-02 administration attenuated intestinal permeability increase, preserved occludin and claudin 2 and 4 localization at TJ, and decreased NEC incidence (Bergmann et al., 2013). The increased intestinal permeability associated with colitis in mice was completely prevented by probiotics (VSL#3) by counterbalancing decreased expression and redistribution of occludin, ZO-1, and claudin-1, -3, -4, and 5 (Mennigen et al., 2009). Proposed bacterial signaling components include the Lactobacillus plantarum surface layer protein (Liu et al., 2010a), and indole (Bansal et al., 2010).

In vivo, barrier function may be measured by various a non-invasive assay methods by administering a bolus of for example CrEDTA or two non-metabolized sugars (e.g.

lactulose and mannitol) followed by determining Cr or the ratio of the two sugars in urine, respectively. Mannitol is a monosaccharide and therefore easily absorbed and serves as a marker of transcellular uptake, while the disaccharide lactulose is excluded by the cell lining and thus only slightly absorbed and serves as a marker for mucosal integrity. The lactulose and mannitol test provide integrity information related to only the small intestine, due to bacterial breakdown of the sugars in the large intestine, whereas CrEDTA is more stable and preferentially provides information about the colonic epithelium since this is where the compound is present for the longest time (Arrieta et al., 2006).

Insufficient intestinal barrier function is associated with both intestinal and systemic clinical manifestations. Intestinal permeability has been most extensively studied in the context of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD; Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) are

characterized by chronic relapsing intestinal inflammation with involvement of both the innate and adaptive immune system (Zhang and Li, 2014). Pro-inflammatory pathways involving cytokine interleukin 23 (IL-23) and T-helper 17 (T H 17) cells are elevated in patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease (Song et al., 2013) which is supported by genetic findings implying an association between gene variants in the IL23R gene and IBD (Beaudoin et al., 2013). The etiology of IBD is unknown, but extensive supporting data of a compromised intestinal barrier function in IBD exists (Geese et al., 2011;

Gerova et al., 2011 ; Odenwald and Turner, 2012). In Crohn's patients with active disease increased intestinal permeability was found (Ukabam et al., 1983) and also 10- 20% of healthy relatives to patients with Crohn's disease have increased permeability (Hollander et al., 1986). One theory of IBD pathogenesis suggests that an increased intestinal permeability exposes the underlying GALT to normally excluded agents that results in a self-perpetuating inflammatory process (Poritz et al., 2007). In the dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) colitis mouse model it has been shown that increased intestinal permeability precedes the development of significant intestinal inflammation (Poritz et al., 2007).

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) include abdominal cramping and pain that is often concurrent with abnormal bowel habits with diarrhea, constipation, or alternating episodes of both. The etiology and pathophysiology of IBS are unknown. Several studies have shown increased intestinal permeability in IBS (Camilleri et al., 2007; Camilleri et al., 2012; Geese et al., 2011; Martinez et al., 2012; Piche et al., 2009). Increased permeability results from disruption of normal apical expression of TJ proteins claudin-1, ZO-1 and occludin (Camilleri et al., 2012). The increased intestinal permeability is accompanied by persistent low-grade immune activation in the intestine. A previous study found elevated fecal calprotectin in IBS patients (Goepp et al., 2014) indicating elevated inflammation. Also cytokine dysregulation may be involved in the inflammatory process and recent meta-analyses have shown associations between the IL-10 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa) gene polymorphisms and IBS (Qin et al., 2013; Schmulson et al., 2013; Bashashati et al., 2012). A serum/plasma imbalance in the TNFa cytokine was observed in IBS compared to controls (Bashashati et al. 2014) and in

diarrheapredominant IBD patients serum levels of both IL-6 and TNFa were significantly higher compared to controls (Rana et al., 2012). Altogether this suggests an immune displacement towards a more pro-inflammatory stage.

Treatment with probiotic fermented milk (Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, and B. longum) significantly decreased small intestinal permeability in IBS patients and improved mean global IBS scores (Zeng et al ., 2008).

Chronic liver disease is associated with changes in the intestine and liver diseases have been associated with gut microbial changes (Schnabl and Brenner, 2014). These changes in microbial composition may lead to activation of the mucosal immune system via TLR- receptors and Nod I ike -receptors (NLR) that recognize microbial products followed by nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF- K B) activation that initiates immune cell recruitment (Chassaing et al. 2014). Genetically modified animals such as TLR4 mutant mice developed significantly less hepatic fibrosis and hepatic macrophage recruitment after bile duct ligation compared to wild type mice indicating involvement of the TLR4 pathway in development of chronic hepatic diseases (Seki et al. 2007). The connection between cholestatic liver disease and local inflammation in the intestinal lamina propria was shown to be mediated by TLR2-positive monocytes secreting TNFa which was also associated with disruption of the TJ proteins ZO-1 and claudin-4 (Hartmann et al. 2012). Translocation of bacteria or their products, e.g. LPS to mesenteric lymph nodes and extraintestinal sites is common in patients with liver cirrhosis due to increased intestinal permeability (Seo and Shah, 2012), and in patients with chronic liver disease and intestinal bacterial overgrowth with bacterial translocation, disease seventy correlated with systemic LPS levels (Lin et al. 1995). In both animal models and chronic liver disease patients, antibiotic treatment improves disease severity by reducing bacterial burden and endotoxemia (Seki et al. 2007; Cirera et al. 2001). However, a leaky gut and translocation of microbial products also occur early in disease and patients with liver disease have a disrupted gut barrier and bacterial products are found in the systemic circulation. Microbial products reach the liver via the portal vein or the lymphatic ducts, where they activate hepatic receptors of the innate immune system (Schnabl, 2013). Experiments in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients carried out by Miele et al. (2009) strongly suggest that NAFLD is associated with increased gut permeability and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Bacterial translocation is correlated with plasma levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and activation of nitric oxide synthase (Frances et al., 2010), which may cause liver injuries. Thus, reducing bacterial translocation could represent a treatment to alleviate liver diseases.

Decreased bacterial translocation to mesenteric lymph nodes, portal and arterial blood was found in an acute liver injury rat model after treatment with combinations of lactobacilli ( .. acidophilus NMl, L. rhamnosus GG, L. piantarum 299v, L. rhamnosus 271, and B. animalis NM2). In addition reduced levels of Enterobacteriaceae (Gram-negative bacteria) were found in cecum and colon. Decreased hepatocellular damage was indicated by lower levels of serum alanine aminotransferase (Adawi et al., 2001).

Probiotic treatment not only decreases bacterial translocation, but also reduces endotoxemia caused by endotoxins, mainly LPS derived from Gram-negative bacteria. It seems plausible that endotoxins are important to the development of NAFLD and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) via Kuppfer cell stimulation and TNFa production (Osman et al., 2007). Reduced plasma endotoxin levels may be the result of decreasing intestinal permeability. Reduced concentrations of plasma endotoxin in cirrhosis patients have been found after treatment with two probiotic mixtures (Bifidobacterium, L. acidophilus and Enterococcus [Bifico ® ], or Bacillus subtilis and Enterococcus faecium [Medilac-s ® ]) (Wigg et al., 2001), or after treatment with a synbiotic product (Pediococcus pentosaceus 5-33 :3,

Leuconostoc mesenteroides 32-77: 1, L. paracasei subsp. paracasei F19, L. piantarum 2592 + bioactive, fermentable fibers; Medipharm), or treatment with the probiotic mixture alone (Zhao et al., 2004). A marginal lowering of endotoxemia was found after treatment with E. coli Nissle 1917 compared to placebo in cirrhotic patients (Liu et al., 2004). It is well-known that alcohol increases intestinal permeability and this may accelerate the progression of liver disease by increasing portal circulating endotoxin (LPS). Soluble factors from L. rhamnosus LGG was found to reduce the alcohol-induced intestinal permeability increase and endotoxin translocation, and to ameliorate the acute alcohol- induced liver injury in a mouse model (Wang et al., 2012). Improvement of the gut barrier by probiotics is well-documented in vitro, and in vivo. Given the importance of bacterial translocation and endotoxemia to the development of liver diseases it seems likely that probiotics with gut barrier fortifying properties would have a beneficial effect on NAFLD and NASH.

Metabolic disorders (type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance) and obesity are tightly linked to inflammation. Recent evidence suggests an interaction between high-fat diet and bacteria, and the intestinal mucosa may promote small intestine inflammation as an early event in the development of obesity and insulin resistance (Ding and Lund, 2011). Animal studies showed an upreguiation in TNFa in ileum in high-fat diet fed mice before weight and fat gain became evident and also the pro-inflammatory pathway of NF- K B was upregulated in ileum and to a lesser degree in colon in high-fat diet fed mice (Ding et al., 2010). In severely obese children fecal calprotectin was increased in 47% of the patients, whereas rectal nitric acid was pathologically high in 88% of the obese children and in 100% of the diabetic patients supporting the hypothesis that distal intestinal inflammation is involved in obesity and diabetes (Spagnuolo et al., 2010). In a study in obese women, gene expression of pro-inflammatory pathways was dramatically down- regulated after a diet-induced weight loss of an average of 10%, accompanied by reduction in TNFa, IL-Ιβ, IL-8 and monocyte chemotactic protein 1 and macrophage infiltration (Pendyala et al., 2011). Altogether, these data implies that the intestine in obese subjects and diabetic patients have an increased inflammatory status compared to healthy subjects and that this may proceed the development of weight gain and glucose/insulin imbalances. Germ-free mice are protected against the metabolic complications of exposure to a high-fat/high-refined sugar 'Western' diet. Translocated bacterial LPS has been identified as a triggering factor of low-grade, chronic

inflammation, termed 'metabolic endotoxemia' (Cani et al., 2007). According to this model, LPS is released from lysing Gram-negative bacteria in the intestine and translocates across the epithelium when the barrier is compromised, e.g. as a

consequence of a high-fat containing diet. The increased levels of plasma LPS (2-3-fold) causes a slightly increased, but persistent, inflammatory tone that triggers weight gain and insulin resistance (Cani et al., 2007). Increased circulating levels of LPS and markers of intestinal permeability (zonulin) are found in patients with type 2 diabetes

(Hawkesworth et al., 2012; Jayashree et al., 2014) as well as type 1 diabetes (de Kort et al., 2011; Vaarala et al., 2008). Zonulin upregulation, i.e. increased intestinal permeability seems to precede the onset of type 1 diabetes (Sapone et al., 2006).

Colonization of the intestines with bifidobacteria enhances intestinal barrier function through increasing ZO-1 and occludin expression, and significantly and positively improves glucose tolerance, glucose-induced insulin secretion and normalizes the inflammatory tone (Cani et al., 2007).

Metabolic endotoxemia due to loss of intestinal barrier integrity activates TLR4-mediated inflammation and induce oxidative stress which is associated with increased

cardiovascular risk and mortality. Increased translocation of LPS through the intestinal barrier causes higher circulating levels of LPS that promotes atherosclerosis (Neves et al., 2013). Markers of systemic inflammation such as circulating LPS is elevated in patients with chronic infections and are strong predictors of increased atherosclerotic risk (Kiechl et al., 2001).

Key elements of autoimmune diseases are adaptive immunity and an imbalance between T H 1 and T H 2 immune responses. In neonates microbial antigens can induce a T H 1 immune response that offsets the normally dominant T H 2 immune response. A T H 1 immune response is characteristic of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Recently, a compromised intestinal barrier has been proposed to be involved in the development of autoimmune diseases (Fasano and Shea-Donohue, 2005). According to this hypothesis there are three key elements in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases.

1. A miscommunication between innate and adaptive immunity.

2. Continuous stimulation by nonself-antigen (environmental triggers) perpetuates the process.

3. A loss of protective function of mucosal barriers that interact with the

environment (gastrointestinal and lung mucosa).

Pathology of celiac disease is an example. Early in the development of celiac disease TJ are opened and intestinal tissue damage results. Gliadin triggers the zonulin innate immunity pathway in a MyD88-dependent way that initiates opening of TJ and induces a pro-inflammatory (T H 1) response in the intestinal mucosa. Once gliadin (gluten) is removed from the diet, serum zonulin levels decrease, the intestine resumes its baseline barrier function, autoantibody titers are normalized, and the autoimmune process shuts off (Fasano and Shea-Donohue, 2005; Fasano, 2012). Several other autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, are characterized by increased intestinal permeability that allow the passage of antigens from the intestinal microbiota, challenging the immune system to produce an immune response that can target any organ or tissue (by molecular mimicry) in genetically predisposed individuals (Fasano, 2012). Furthermore, the immune system of particularly the small intestine has been recognized to induce tolerogenic responses to for example food antigens or commensals that may be involved in the development of autoimmune diseases. The small intestine was acknowledged to redirect and control pro- inflammatory T H 17 cells (Esplugues et al. 2011) and it has been proposed that probiotic bacteria may act by modulating intestinal immune system and thus dampen disease development and severity in animal models of rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis (So et al., 2008; Kwon et al., 2013)

Germ-free mice have an exaggerated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal reaction to stress compared to conventional mice, which can be reversed by monoassociation with B.

infantis suggesting a cross-talk between gut bacteria and the brain (Sudo et al., 2004). Increased gut permeability, bacterial translocation and activation of the TLR4 pathway have been implicated as a link between psychological disorders and somatic diseases, including mood disorders, cognitive disorders, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Elevated expression of markers of the TLR4 pathway was found in patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder, accompanying increased bacterial translocation across the intestinal barrier (Keri et al., 2014). Translocated Gram-negative gut bacteria and LPS activate immune cells to elicit IgA and IgM responses that cause progressive amplifications of immune pathways associated with neuroinflammation and neuroprogression and with the onset of melancholic symptoms, e.g. anhedonia, anorexia, weight loss, psychomotor retardation, anxiety, and fatigue (Maes et al., 2012).

Transepithelial Electrical Resistance (TER )

The barrier properties of epithelial cell monolayers are determined to a large extent by TJ located in the intercellular space where they form a seal between the apical and basolateral membrane domain and regulate paracellular passage of molecules. The barrier function is not static but can be deliberately modulated by exposure to specific stimuli. The resulting dynamics of TJ network can be conveniently followed by measuring the transepithelial electrical resistance (TER). Caco-2 is a well-established cell line derived from human colon adenocarcinoma which is commonly used as an intestinal permeability model. When fully differentiated Caco-2 monolayers form TJ restricting transfer of ions and, thus, produce an electrical resistance across the monolayer.

BD™ Cytometric Bead Array (CBA)

The mucosal-associated lymphoid tissues lining the human gastrointestinal tract contain a network of immune cells. Dendritic cells (DCs) govern the balance between immunity and tolerance by sampling of intestinal contents and initiating appropriate immune responses to luminal antigens through pattern recognition receptor signaling, cytokine secretion, and their ability to migrate and present antigen to naive T cells in draining lymph nodes. At homeostasis, DCs in the intestinal mucosa are conditioned by commensal microorganisms to promote proliferation of Foxp3 + regulatory T cells (Tregs), strong producers of anti-inflammatory IL-10 contributing to intestinal tolerance. Luminal antigens translocating through the epithelial call layer bind to pattern recognition receptors expressed on DCs and activate signaling pathways resulting in production and secretion of a wide range of chemokines and cytokines with distinct inflammatory effects. In this context, DC secretion of inflammatory cytokines such as TNFa, IL-lb, IL-6, and IL-12 is central for acute, innate inflammatory responses involving attraction of neutrophils and macrophages to the site of infection. In addition, DCs are central players in the regulation of adaptive immune responses, thus, DC modulation toward an IL-10 secreting phenotype contributes to induction of Treg responses promoting intestinal tolerance (Smith et al., 2014). Multiplexed immunoassays based on the principles of flow cytometry allow for simultaneous determination of numerous soluble proteins in very small sample volumes. The combination of high throughput and impressive accuracy, sensitivity, and reproducibility make these experimental techniques highly relevant for screening purposes where rapid

quantification of multiple compounds is critical.

The DSS colitis model

The rodent Dextran Sulfate Sodium (DSS) colitis model features uncontrolled colonic inflammation. In many ways it resembles IBD, including ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease, for which worldwide incidence and prevalence has been shown to increase (Molodecky et al., 2012). The underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of DSS colitis include initial disruption of intestinal barrier function followed by inflammation and crypt loss (Cooper et al., 1993; Iwaya et al., 2012; Poritz et al., 2007). Disease symptoms in DSS colitis correspond to what is observed in human UC, including body weight loss, diarrhea and fecal blood loss (Herias et al., 2005). The exact mechanism whereby DSS induces colitis is not elucidated, however, it has been recognized that DSS associates with medium-chain-length fatty acids present in the colonic lumen and form vesicles capable of fusing with the colonocytes membranes which may cause activation of inflammatory signaling pathways in the cytoplasm (Laroui et al., 2012). Also, recent findings indicate that thickness of the inner colonic mucus layer, normally devoid of bacteria, is decreased and becomes permeable to bacteria only 15 minutes after DSS exposure. Within 12 hours after DSS exposure bacterial interaction with the epithelial layer was observed which could activate inflammation (Johansson et al., 2010). As in healthy rodents, bacteria are clearly separated from the epithelial colonic layer in healthy humans, whereas in ulcerative colitis patients with acute inflammation bacteria penetrate the inner mucus layer (Johansson et al., 2014), indicating common pathology between the DSS-induced colitis model and human inflammatory GI disorders. One of the early events of DSS-induced pathology is loss of tight junction ZO-1 and increased intestinal permeability, preceding intestinal inflammation (Poritz et al., 2007), which could indicate that the DSS disrupts intestinal barrier function, allowing for penetration of toxins, antigens and whole or fractions of bacteria which fuel

inflammation. This also corresponds well with human findings where the intestinal permeability is compromised along with marked downregulation in TJ genes during intestinal inflamed conditions (Koltun et al., 1998; Gassier et al., 2001). Interestingly, down-regulation of TJ genes like ZO-1, claudin-1, JAM, beta-catenin and occludin in colonic mucosa areas actively transmigrating neutrophils was seen in ulcerative colitis patients (Kucharzik et al., 2001) suggesting a close connection between the disruption in TJs and inflammation.

Bifidobacteria, lactobacilli and mixtures have shown efficacy in DSS-induced colitis in mice and rats (Chen et al., 2009; Kim et al., 2010; Geier et al., 2007; Mennigen et al., 2009). Different probiotic modes of action have been proposed involving strengthening of the intestinal epithelial barrier and modulating inflammatory pathways such as cytokine signaling. For example, Lactobacillus reuteri inhibited bacterial translocation from the intestine to the mesenteric lymph nodes in addition to the disease activity index

(Dicksved et al., 2012) which could suggest increased barrier function as a part of the disease severity dampening mechanism. Also, E. coli Nissle 1917 was shown to dampen DSS-induced colitis by strengthening of intestinal permeability and TJ protein expression such as ZO-1 (Ukena et al., 2007). Although this mode of action has not been directly verified in humans thus far E. coli Nissle 1917 has been reported as being efficacious in preventing ulcerative colitis relapse (Kruis et al., 1997; Kruis et al., 2004) indicating similarities in mechanisms between rodents and humans.

Modulations of inflammatory pathways during DSS-induced colitis by the use of probiotics were also shown to effectively inhibit disease severity. Yao and co-workers transfected a B. longum with an IL-10 containing plasmid and dosed the bacteria to mice exposed to DSS. The transfected bacteria alleviated the colitis symptoms by

downregulating the NF- K B pathway that would otherwise lead to production of various pro-inflammatory cytokines (Yao et al., 2011). Miyauchi and others on the other hand showed that B. longum subsp. infantis was capable of reducing colitis severity by suppressing the expression of type 1 helper T (T H 1) and IL-17 producing helper T (T H 17)- specific cytokines in colonic tissue (Miyauchi et al., 2013).

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to isolated strains of Bifidobacterium adolescentis. Among bacterial isolates belonging to B. adolescentis, four taxonomic subgroups, not previously described, can be identified by genomic and phenotypic characteristics. These taxonomic subgroups are clearly different from the type strain (B. adoiescentis ATCC15703 7 ). The four taxonomic subgroups of B. adoiescentis are differentiated from the B. adoiescentis type strain by specific signatures in the 16S rRNA gene sequences. The 16S rRNA signatures also differentiate the four subgroups from each other. As no exact taxonomic definitions exist below the species level, these subgroups have been termed ribospecies 2, 3, 4, and 5. Ribospecies 1 is B. adoiescentis ATCC15403 7 .

The 16S ribosomal RNA sequence analysis is a central element in the polyphasic approach to bacterial classification and for delineating taxons from phylogenetically neighbouring species. However, at 16S rRNA gene sequence similarities above 98.7 % this method is not able to unambiguously discriminate unique taxons and determination of DNA-DNA relatedness is recommended. As the sequence similarity of the isolated strains to the type strain were all above 99.87% we decided to determine the DNA-DNA relatedness. DNA-DNA reassociation studies of representative strains of each subgroup with the B. adoiescentis type strain showed more than 70% DNA-DNA relatedness between the representative strains and the type strain, and thus confirmed that the representative strains indeed belong to the B. adoiescentis species. Combined these data show that the isolated strains are novel subgroups of B. adoiescentis, which have not been previously described.

The four subgroups are further differentiated from B. adoiescentis ATCC15403 7 by protein coding DNA sequences (CDS) present only in ribospecies 2, 3, 4, and 5, but not in the type strain. Unique protein coding sequences discriminate the individual ribospecies from each other, while other protein coding sequences are unique to ribospecies 2 + 5, or ribospecies 3 + 4.

The ability to ferment starch and glycogen discriminates the ribospecies from B.

adoiescentis ATCC15403 7 as well as ribospecies 2 + 5 from ribospecies 3 + 4. Thus, ribospecies 2 and 5, but not B. adoiescentis ATCC15403 7 and ribospecies 3 + 4, ferment glycogen as the sole carbon source, while ribospecies 2 + 5 and B. adoiescentis

ATCC15403 7 , but not ribospecies 3 + 4, can ferment starch.

Thus, four ribospecies (taxonomic subgroups) of B. adoiescentis have been found that can be unambiguously differentiated from B. adoiescentis ATCC 15703 7 and from each other by specific 16S rRNA gene sequence signatures, specific protein coding DNA sequences, and the capacity to ferment glycogen and starch.

One embodiment of the invention relates to an isolated strain of Bifidobacterium adoiescentis that has a 16S ribosomal gene sequence which comprises SEQ ID NOs: l or 2; SEQ ID NOs: 3, 4 or 5; SEQ ID NOs: 6, 7, 8 or 9; and SEQ ID NOs: 10 or 11. A common denominator of a host of human diseases and conditions is an impaired intestinal barrier function and pro-inflammatory activation of the mucosal immune system due to increased translocation of bacteria and LPS across the intestinal epithelium. Diseases include, but are not limited to, intestinal inflammatory conditions such as IBD and IBS, liver diseases including NAFLD, NASH, cirrhosis, and alcohol- related liver disease, metabolic disorders such as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular atherosclerosis, autoimmune diseases, e.g . celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and mental conditions including, major depressive disorders, a mood disorder, a cognitive disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, and anxiety.

Strains of B. adolescentis ribospecies 2, 3, 4, and 5 are able to improve the intestinal barrier function and/or to induce regulating elements of the immune response.

Some strains of B. adolescentis ribospecies 2, 3, 4, and 5 increase the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of Caco-2 cell monolayers after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, and thus, improve the intestinal barrier function.

Some strains of B. adolescentis ribospecies 2, 3, 4, and 5 induce secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10 and/or induce an IL-10 : IL-12 ratio > 1, when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells, and thus, elicit an anti-inflammatory immune response.

Some strains of B. adolescentis ribospecies 2, 3, 4, and 5 increase TER in Caco-2 cell monolayers to > 120% relative to TER at treatment start and/or induce secretion of more than 200 pg/ml of IL-10 and/or induce an IL-10 : IL-12 ratio > 1, and may, thus, both improve the intestinal barrier function and elicit an anti-inflammatory immune response.

The present invention relates to prevention, alleviation of symptoms, and treatment of diseases or conditions with an underlying impaired intestinal barrier function and/or proinflammatory activation of the mucosa with strains of B. adolescentis ribospecies 2, 3, 4, or 5 that improve the intestinal barrier function as determined by the ability to increase TER in Caco-2 cell monolayers to > 120% relative to TER at treatment start, to induce an anti-inflammatory immune response as determined by the ability to induce secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10 and/or to induce an IL-10 : IL- 12 ratio > 1 in human PBMC derived dendritic cells, or preferably, a combination of one, two or all of the above mentioned barrier improvement and anti-inflammatory immune response. A combined effect of barrier improvement and anti-inflammatory immune response may also be achieved by combining strains that each excel in one of these effects.

DETAILED DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION One way of characterizing Bifidobacterium adolescentis strains of the invention is their ability to ferment and grow on the specific carbohydrate sources outlined in Example 4. Table 2 provides an overview of the growth characteristics of a number of B. adolescentis strains of the invention. The strains provided in the table are only to be considered non- limiting examples of strains of the invention.

As evident from the table a number of strains have the ability to ferment D-ribose but not D-sorbitol, among others BIF084 (DSM 29106), BIF046 (DSM 29111), BIF106 (DSM 29107), BIF123 (DSM 29102) BIF129 (DSM 29104), and BIF038 (DSM 29103).

One aim of the present invention is to provide B. adolescentis strains which are able to improve the intestinal barrier function and/or elicit an anti-inflammatory immune response as these features are related to a number of diseases or conditions with an underlying impaired intestinal barrier function and/or pro-inflammatory activation of the mucosa.

As evident from the examples some strains of B. adolescentis increase the trans- epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of Caco-2 cell monolayers after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, and thus improve the intestinal barrier function.

Some strains of B. adolescentis induce secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10 and/or induce an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1, when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells, and thus elicit an anti-inflammatory immune response.

In one embodiment, the isolated strains of the invention are capable of i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL- 10, and/or iii) inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells. The strains may have one, two or all three of these capabilities.

Table 9 provides a summary of in vitro data of selected B. adolescentis strains of the invention fulfilling one or more of the above characteristics. As evident from Table 9 all the strains elicit an anti-inflammatory immune response, and DSM 29102, DSM 29107 and DSM 29103 further improve the intestinal barrier.

The invention relates to a Bifidobacterium adolescentis strain of the invention for use in prevention, alleviation of symptoms, and treatment of diseases or conditions with an underlying impaired intestinal barrier function and/or pro-inflammatory activation of the mucosa. Examples of diseases or conditions where a Bifidobacterium adolescentis strain of the invention is contemplated to have effect are intestinal inflammatory conditions such as IBD and IBS, liver diseases such as NAFLD, NASH, cirrhosis, and alcohol-related liver disease, metabolic disorders such as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular atherosclerosis, autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and mental conditions such as major depressive disorders, mood disorders, cognitive disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, and anxiety.

Examples of symptoms which may be prevented or alleviated by administration of a Bifidobacterium adoiescentis strain of the invention are anorexia, fecal bleeding, abdominal cramping and pain, diarrhea, constipation, or alternating episodes of both.

Example 8 provides results of the effect of one of the strains of the invention, B.

adoiescentis DSM 29103, on DSS induced colitis which indicates that B. adoiescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) prevents and/or inhibits inflammation and tissue damage in the gastrointestinal tract as well as inhibits diarrhea and induces an overall health promoting effect in terms of body weight. Based upon these findings it is contemplated that DSM 29103 and other strains having similar properties as outlined herein will be able to prevent or alleviate at least some of the gastrointestinal symptoms outlined above. One embodiment of the present invention relates to a method for improving the intestinal barrier function, said method comprising administering a therapeutically effective dose of an isolated strain according to the invention or a probiotic product according to the invention to an individual in need thereof. One embodiment of the present invention relates to a method for eliciting an antiinflammatory immune response, said method comprising administering a therapeutically effective dose of an isolated strain according to the invention or a probiotic product according to the invention to an individual in need thereof. In one embodiment said method induces secretion of IL-10 and/or an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1.

In one embodiment, the invention relates to a method for the prevention, alleviation of symptoms, or treatment of an intestinal inflammatory condition such as IBD and IBS, a liver disease such as NAFLD, NASH, cirrhosis, or alcohol-related liver disease, a metabolic disorder such as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular atherosclerosis, an autoimmune disease, such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, and/or a mental condition such as major depressive disorder, a mood disorder, a cognitive disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, or anxiety, the method comprising administering a therapeutically effective dose of an isolated strain or a probiotic product according to the invention to an individual in need thereof.

Although the methods and uses of the strains of the invention are of particular relevance for humans, animals such as pets, e.g. cats, dogs and horses, are also included within the scope of the present invention.

The present invention relates to an isolated strain of Bifidobacterium adolescentis characterized in that a) the sequence comprises SEQ ID NOs: l or 2; SEQ ID NOs: 3, 4 or 5; SEQ ID NOs: 6, 7, 8 or 9; and SEQ ID NOs: 10 or 11, and b) the sequence encodes a protein which has at least 90% sequence identity to at least one protein selected from any of SEQ ID NOs: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25.

In one embodiment of b) the sequence encodes a protein which has at least 90% sequence identity to at least one protein selected from SEQ ID NOs: 12, 13, and 14. In a further embodiment of b) the sequence encodes a protein which has at least 90% sequence identity to at least one protein selected from SEQ ID NOs 18 and 19. In a yet further embodiment of b) the sequence encodes a protein which has at least 90% sequence identity to at least one protein selected from SEQ ID NOs 20 and 21.

In another embodiment of b) the sequence encodes a protein which has at least 90% sequence identity to at least one protein selected from SEQ ID NOs 15, 16, and 17. In a further embodiment of b) the sequence encodes a protein which has at least 90% sequence identity to at least one protein selected from SEQ ID NOs 22 and 23. In a yet further embodiment of b) the sequence encodes a protein which has at least 90% sequence identity to at least one protein selected from SEQ ID NOs 24 and 25.

In specific embodiments, the strain comprises nucleic acid sequences which encode proteins having at least 90% identity to at least one protein selected from SEQ ID NOs 12-25, such as sequences encoding proteins having at least 91% identity, at least 92% identity, at least 93% identity, at least 94% identity, at least 95% identity, at least 96% identity, at least 97% identity, at least 98% identity, or at least 99% identity to one or more of SEQ ID NOs 12-25. In one embodiment, the strain includes a nucleotide sequence which encodes an amino acid sequence comprising one or more of SEQ ID NOs 12-25. For purposes of the present invention, the degree of sequence identity between two nucleotide sequences or two amino acid sequences is determined using the sequence alignment method of ClustalW version 2 (ClustalW2) for nucleotide sequence (DNA) or amino acid sequence (protein), respectively, pairwise alignment as described by Larkin et al, (2007, Bioinformatics 23 :2947-2948) and Goujon et al. (2010, Nucleic acids research 38 Suppl :W695-699) with default parameters (Alignment Type: Slow; DNA Weight Matrix: IUB; Protein Weight Matrix: Gonnet; Gap Open : 10; Gap Extension : 0.1), available at www.ebi.ac.uk/Tools/msa/clustalw2/. One embodiment relates to isolated strains which are able of growing on starch or glycogen as the sole carbohydrate source. Some of these strains are characterized in that they comprise SEQ ID NOs: 2; 4, 7, 8, and 10. Examples of such strains are DSM 29103, DSM 29102, DSM 29104, DSM 29105 and strains derived therefrom. Other of these strains are characterized in that they comprise SEQ ID NOs: 2; 3, 8, and 10. Examples of such strains are DSM 29107 and strains derived therefrom.

Another embodiment relates to isolated strains which are able of growing on trehalose as the sole carbohydrate source but unable to ferment starch or glycogen. Some of these strains are characterized in that they comprise SEQ ID NOs: l, 3, 6, and 11. Examples of such strains are DSM 29106, DSM 29111 and strains derived therefrom. Other of these strains are characterized in that they comprise SEQ ID NOs: l, 5; 9; and 11.

The present invention also relates to a Bifidobacterium adoiescensis strain deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession No. DSM 29103 or a strain derived from DSM 29103 wherein the derived strain is characterized by being capable of i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10, and/or iii) inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells. The derived strain may have one, two or all three of these capabilities.

The present invention also relates to a Bifidobacterium adoiescensis strain deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession No. DSM 29102 or a strain derived from DSM 29102 wherein the derived strain is characterized by being capable of i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10, and/or iii) inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells. The derived strain may have one, two or all three of these capabilities.

The present invention also relates to a Bifidobacterium adoiescensis strain deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession No. DSM 29104 or a strain derived from DSM 29104 wherein the derived strain is characterized by being capable of i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10, and/or iii) inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells. The derived strain may have one, two or all three of these capabilities.

The present invention also relates to a Bifidobacterium adoiescensis strain deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession No. DSM 29105 or a strain derived from DSM 29105 wherein the derived strain is characterized by being capable of i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10, and/or iii) inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells. The derived strain may have one, two or all three of these capabilities.

The present invention also relates to a Bifidobacterium adoiescensis strain deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession No. DSM 29106 or a strain derived from DSM 29106 wherein the derived strain is characterized by being capable of i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10, and/or iii) inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells. The derived strain may have one, two or all three of these capabilities.

The present invention also relates to a Bifidobacterium adoiescensis strain deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession No. DSM 29107 or a strain derived from DSM 29107 wherein the derived strain is characterized by being capable of i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10, and/or iii) inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells. The derived strain may have one, two or all three of these capabilities. The present invention also relates to a Bifidobacterium adoiescensis strain deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession No. DSM 29111 or a strain derived from DSM 29111 wherein the derived strain is characterized by being capable of i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10, and/or iii) inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells. The derived strain may have one, two or all three of these capabilities.

A bacterial "strain" as used herein refers to a bacterium which remains genetically unchanged when grown or multiplied. The multiplicity of identical bacteria is included. "Wild type strain" refers to the non-mutated form of a bacterium, as found in nature. In the present context, the term "derived strain" should be understood as a strain derived from a mother strain by means of e.g. genetic engineering, radiation and/or chemical treatment, and/or selection, adaptation, screening, etc. In specific

embodiments the derived strain is a functionally equivalent mutant, e.g. a mutant that has substantially the same, or improved, properties (e.g. regarding probiotic properties) as the mother strain. Such a derived strain is a part of the present invention. The term "derived strain" includes a strain obtained by subjecting a strain of the invention to any conventionally used mutagenization treatment including treatment with a chemical mutagen such as ethane methane sulphonate (EMS) or N-methyl-N'-nitro-N- nitroguanidine (NTG), UV light or to a spontaneously occurring mutant.

A "mutant bacterium" or a "mutant strain" refers to a natural (spontaneous, naturally occurring) mutant bacterium or an induced mutant bacterium comprising one or more mutations in its genome (DNA) which are absent in the wild type DNA. An "induced mutant" is a bacterium where the mutation was induced by human treatment, such as treatment with any conventionally used mutagenization treatment including treatment with chemical mutagens, such as a chemical mutagen selected from (i) a mutagen that associates with or become incorporated into DNA such as a base analogue, e.g. 2- aminopurine or an interchelating agent such as ICR-191, (ii) a mutagen that reacts with the DNA including alkylating agents such as nitrosoguanidine or hydroxylamine, or ethane methyl sulphonate (EMS) or N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitroguanidine (NTG), UV- or gamma radiation etc. In contrast, a "spontaneous mutant" or "naturally occurring mutant" has not been mutagenized by man. A derived strain, such as a mutant, may have been subjected to several mutagenization treatments (a single treatment should be understood one mutagenization step followed by a screening/selection step), but typically no more than 20, no more than 10, or no more than 5, treatments are carried out. In specific embodiments of derived strains, such as mutants, less than 1%, less than 0.1%, less than 0.01%, less than 0.001% or even less than 0.0001% of the nucleotides in the bacterial genome have been changed (such as by replacement, insertion, deletion or a combination thereof) compared to the mother strain. Mutant bacteria as described above are non-GMO, i.e. not modified by recombinant DNA technology. As an alternative to above preferred method of providing the mutant by random mutagenesis, it is also possible to provide such a mutant by site-directed mutagenesis, e.g. by using appropriately designed PCR techniques or by using a transposable element which is integratable in bacterial replicons.

When the mutant is provided as a spontaneously occurring mutant the above wild-type strain is subjected to the selection step without any preceding mutagenization treatment.

A mutant strain of any of the B. adolescentis strains with accession numbers DSM 29103, DSM 29104, DSM 29106, DSM 29107, DSM 29111, DSM 29102 and DSM 29105 can be obtained by subjecting the strain to mutagenization treatment as described to obtain mutant strains and selecting for mutant strains having the desired properties.

Alternatively, a selection is performed for spontaneously occurring mutants. One embodiment of the invention relates to an isolated strain selected from the group consisting of DSM 29103, DSM 29104, DSM 29106, DSM 29107, DSM 29111, DSM 29102 and DSM 29105 and a mutant of any of said deposited strains which is capable of i) increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start;

ii) inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10; and/or

iii) inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells.

By the term "a probiotic product" is meant any product which comprises a probiotic bacterium. A probiotic product comprising a strain according to the invention may be administered in the form of a food product or a dietary supplement. The Bifidobacterium adolescentis may, for example, be incorporated in a dairy product, such as milk, and in particular a fermented dairy product, optionally in combination with other lactic acid bacteria, for example with yogurt ferments, or in other food products such as a snack bar, or beverages such as juice.

The probiotic product comprising Bifidobacterium adolescentis can also be provided as a dietary supplement in the form of a powder, tablet, such as a lozenge or effervescent tablet, pastille, capsule, chewing gum, in individual sachets or as a component of a more general composition such as oil drops, an emulsion or a paste, or in any other suitable carrier determined by those of skill in the art to be an effective carrier for live

microorganisms. Probiotic bacteria are live microorganisms and this can be a challenge during formulation and storage of probiotic products. Probiotic bacteria are especially sensitive towards temperature, moisture content, and oxygen and other ingredients in a formulation matrix. It is preferred that the bacteria of the invention remain viable after prolonged storage in order for the bacteria to impart their beneficial effect upon administration of the probiotic product of the invention to the individual in need thereof.

By the term "viable" is meant that the cell is alive and capable of forming a colony in a petri dish during pour plating or spread plating. The number of viable probiotic bacteria is determined as the number of colony forming units (CFU) by pour plate or spread plate methods with incubation under conditions suitable for growth of the probiotic strain(s). By this method cells capable of growing and forming colonies will be counted. When a number is given in the present specification and claims, it should be understood as CFU/g unless the context indicates otherwise. In some embodiments, the probiotic product of the present invention comprises at least 10 9 CFU/unit at end of shelf life (EOS). The end of shelf life may be at least 3 months, such as at least 6 months, at least 9 months, at least 12 months, at least 18 months, or at least 24 months.

Using a low water activity ensure a better survival of the probiotic bacteria during storage of the product.

Water activity (a w ) is defined as the partial vapor pressure of water in a composition at a specified temperature divided by the standard state partial vapor pressure of water at the same temperature. Water activity thus acts as a measure of the amount of free (i.e. unbound) water in a composition. It may be calculated as: aw = P/Po where p is the partial vapor pressure of water in the composition and p 0 is the vapor pressure of pure water at the same temperature. In probiotic products it is generally preferred that the water activity (a w ) is in the range of 0.1-0.2. The probiotic bacteria to be used in the probiotic products of the invention are generally frozen or freeze-dried. In order to obtain a high viability the bacteria are mixed with a cryoprotectant before they are frozen or freeze-dried.

The term "a cryoprotectant" denotes a substance that is able to improve the survival during freezing and/or drying and to improve the storage stability of bacteria. The cryoprotectant used herein generally comprises a saccharide.

The saccharide may be a mono-, di-, oligo- or polysaccharide, or a mixture of at least two saccharides. The composition may even comprise three, four or more saccharides. In some embodiments, the composition comprises a mixture of at least one mono- or disaccharide and at least one oligosaccharide. In other embodiments, the composition comprises a mixture of at least one mono- or disaccharide and at least one

polysaccharide. Monosaccharides useful in the probiotic product of the present invention include glucose (also known as dextrose), fructose, ribose and galactose. Disaccharides useful in the probiotic product of the present invention include among other sucrose, trehalose, maltose and lactose. The composition may comprise one or more mono- or

disaccharides, such as one, two or three or even more different saccharides.

In some embodiments the probiotic product of the invention comprises at least one oligosaccharide. An oligosaccharide is a saccharide polymer containing three to nine monosaccharides. Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), which are found in many vegetables, consist of short chains of fructose molecules. Galactooligosaccharides (GOS), which also occur naturally, consist of short chains of galactose molecules. These compounds can be only partially digested by humans. The composition may comprise one, two or even more different oligosaccharides.

In some embodiments the probiotic product of the invention comprises at least one polysaccharide. Polysaccharides are polymeric carbohydrate molecules composed of more than ten monosaccharide units bound together by glycosidic linkages and on hydrolysis give the constituent monosaccharides or oligosaccharides. They range in structure from linear to highly branched. Examples of polysaccharides to be used in a probiotic product of the invention are maltodextrin, cyclodextrin, alginate, pectin, chitosan, starch and inulin. The composition may comprise one, two, three or even more different polysaccharides.

As an example, the cryoprotectant may comprise a mixture of a disaccharide, such as sucrose or glucose, and a polysaccharide, such as maltodextrin.

The addition of oligo- or polysaccharides such as FOS, GOS, inulin and other

polysaccharides can assist in reduction of the water activity and has the further advantage that oligo- and polysaccharides are not quite as sweet as mono- and disaccharides and further that they add fibers to the composition.

Polyols (sugar alcohols) have the general formula HOCH 2 (CHOH) n CH 2 OH. They are commonly added to foods because of their lower caloric content and less sweetness than sugars. Furthermore they are not broken down by bacteria in the mouth or metabolized to acids, and thus do not contribute to tooth decay,

The composition may further comprise at least one polyol such as erythriol, inositol, isomalt, mannitol, maltitol, sorbitol, or xylitol, or a mixture thereof. Preferred polyols are xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol. The composition may comprise one, two, three or even more different polyols.

The cryoprotectant may further comprise a peptide, protein, protein hydrolysate or a mixture thereof. Examples of peptides and proteins to be used herein are casein, pea, whey, albumin, soy protein, glutamic acid or gelatin, and any isolate or hydrolysate thereof. Other additives, e.g. antioxidants such as ascorbate, sodium citrate, propyl gallate may also be present.

The present invention also relates to a probiotic comprising an isolated strain according to the invention and a cryoprotectant, such as a saccharide.

Combinations of several species or strains of probiotic bacteria can be used, i.e. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 or even more of the species and strains listed herein. In presently preferred embodiments, only one, two, three, four or five different strains are present in a probiotic product according to the invention.

In addition to the probiotic bacteria, one or more other active ingredients, for example one, two, three, four or more active ingredients selected from the group consisting of vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E, K2, C, B2, B6, B12, biotin, niacin, folic acid; minerals such as zinc, selenium, chromium, copper, calcium, chloride; and vegetable extracts such as cranberry extract/juice, royal jelly could be included in the probiotic product.

It is contemplated that in order to obtain a therapeutical effect, the probiotic product should be administered daily for at least one week, and advantageously for a longer period such as at least 2 weeks, at least 4 weeks, at least 6 weeks, at least 9 weeks, preferably at least 12 weeks, in an amount corresponding to at least 10 5 CFU, such as at least 10 7 CFU, preferably at least 10 8 CFU, generally between 10 9 CFU and 10 12 CFU of Bifidobacterium adolescentis.

In the present studies the probiotic product comprises Bifidobacterium adolescentis as the active ingredient. Bifidobacterium adolescentis may be used as the only active ingredient. Alternatively, the probiotic product as described herein may comprise further compounds of interest such as other bacterial strains, vitamins, prebiotics, fibers or other compounds which may have a beneficial health effect.

The other bacterium may be selected from the group consisting of Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, Lactococcus lactis subsp.

cremoris, Leuconostoc lactis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris, Pediococcus pentosaceus, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis biovar. diacetylactis, Lactobacillus casei subsp. casei, Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus lactis, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Lactobacillus acidophilus. Thus, the composition may further comprise one or more strain(s) of a lactic acid bacterium selected from the group comprising Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis deposited as DSM 15954, Lactobacillus acidophilus deposited as DSM 13241,

Lactobacillus rhamnosus deposited as ATCC 53103, Lactobacillus rhamnosus deposited as ATCC 55826, Lactobacillus reuteri deposited as ATCC 55845, Lactobacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei deposited as ATCC 55544, Lactobacillus paracasei deposited as LMG- 17806, Streptococcus thermophilus deposited as DSM 15957, Lactobacillus fermentum deposited as NM02/31074, Lactobacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei deposited as CCTCC M204012. The use of the terms "a" and "an" and "the" and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms "comprising", "having", "including" and "containing" are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning "including, but not limited to,") unless otherwise noted. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., "such as") provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.

FIGURE LEGENDS

Figure 1. Dendrogram of B. adolescentis-Wke strains partial 16S rDNA sequences generated by the neighbour joining method. Also included is the type strain B. adolescentis ATCC 15703 T .

5 Figure 2. Partial alignment of 16S rDNA consensus sequences from B. adolescentis-tike strains and the type strains B. adolescentis ATCC 15703 T . Only variable regions are displayed. Numbers are E. coli numbering. Signature sequences differentiating the 4 ribospecies and the type strain are indicated by shading.

Figure 3. Trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) in Caco-2 cell monolayers after 10 stimulation with B. adolescentis-Wke strains. Initially confluent, fully differentiated Caco-2 monolayers grown on Transwell membranes were placed in a CellZscope. The

monolayers were incubated with bacteria for 16 h and TER measured every hour. Results are displayed as TER (%) relative to TER at the latest measurement before incubation start.

15 Figure 4. Trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) in Caco-2 cell monolayers after

stimulation with B. adolescentis-Wke strains. Initially confluent, fully differentiated Caco-2 monolayers grown on Transwell membranes were placed in a CellZscope and TER measured automatically every hour overnight. After 10 h, TER had reached a plateau and this time point was used to compare stimulation of TER by B. adolescentis-Wke strains.

20 Bars indicate TER (%) after 10 h incubation relative to TER at the latest measurement before incubation start.

Figure 5. Expression of IL-10 and the IL-10:IL-12 expression ratio in human PBMC derived dendritic cells (DCs) after stimulation with B. adolescentis-Wke strains. DCs were stimulated with bacteria at a ratio of 100: 1 (bacteria:cells) for 20 h and secretion of IL- 25 10 and IL-12 was measured by the Human Inflammatory Cytokines cytometric bead array (CBA) kit. Cytokine measures were normalized to the average expression for each cytokine and each donor. Bars indicate IL-10 secretion on the left axis, stars indicate IL- 10:IL-12 ratio on the right axis.

Figure 6. Body weight of rats in a DSS colitis model of inflammatory bowel disease. After 30 two weeks dosing of B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103), or vehicle by oral gavage 3% DSS was introduced in the drinking water for 9 days. Animals receiving no DSS served as healthy controls; DSS, received vehicle and DSS; DSS+BIF038 received B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103) and DSS. Body weight was recorded daily.

Healthy control : -■- ; DSS : ; DSS + BIF038: -▼- .

35 Figure 7. Stool consistency scores of rats in a DSS colitis model of inflammatory bowel disease. After two weeks dosing of B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103), or vehicle by oral gavage 3% DSS was introduced in the drinking water for 9 days. Animals receiving no DSS served as healthy controls; DSS, received vehicle and DSS; DSS+BIF038 received B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103) and DSS.

Figure 8. Fecal bleeding scores of rats in a DSS colitis model of inflammatory bowel disease. After two weeks dosing of B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103), or vehicle by oral gavage 3% DSS was introduced in the drinking water for 9 days. Animals receiving no DSS served as healthy controls; DSS, received vehicle and DSS; DSS+BIF038 received B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103) and DSS.

Healthy control : -■- ; DSS : ; DSS + BIF038: -▼- . Figure 9. Whole gut permeability of rats in a DSS colitis model of inflammatory bowel disease. After two weeks dosing of B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103), or vehicle by oral gavage 3% DSS was introduced in the drinking water for 9 days. Animals receiving no DSS served as healthy controls; DSS, received vehicle and DSS; DSS+BIF038 received B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103) and DSS. Permeability was determined as urine CrEDTA excretion.

Healthy control : H ; DSS: ; DSS + BIF038: Π3 .

Figure 10. Histological scores of colonic tissue of rats in a DSS colitis model of inflammatory bowel disease. After two weeks dosing of B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103), or vehicle by oral gavage 3% DSS was introduced in the drinking water for 9 days. Animals receiving no DSS served as healthy controls; DSS, received vehicle and DSS; DSS+BIF038 received B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103) and DSS.

Figure 11. Macroscopic scoring of the intestines of rats in a DSS colitis model of inflammatory bowel disease. After two weeks dosing of B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103), or vehicle by oral gavage 3% DSS was introduced in the drinking water for 9 days. Animals receiving no DSS served as healthy controls; DSS, received vehicle and DSS; DSS+BIF038 received B. adolescentis BIF038 (DSM 29103) and DSS.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEQUENCE LISTING

The sequence listing includes the eleven sequences of Figure 2 as well as the proteins encoded by the CDSs listed in Tables 3 to 8.

SEQ ID NO: l sets out a 16S rRNA gene sequence which is specific for ATCC15703 7 and strains of the ribospecies 3 and 4.

SEQ ID NO: 2 sets out a 16S rRNA gene sequence which is specific for strains of the ribospecies 2 and 5. SEQ ID NO:3 sets out a 16S rRNA gene sequence which is specific for ATCC15703 7 and strains of the ribospecies 5 and 3.

SEQ ID NO:4 sets out a 16S rRNA gene sequence which is specific for strains of the ribospecies 2.

SEQ ID NO: 5 sets out a 16S rRNA gene sequence which is specific for strains of the ribospecies 4.

SEQ ID NO:6 sets out a 16S rRNA gene sequence which is specific for ATCC15703 7 and strains of the ribospecies 3.

SEQ ID NO: 7 sets out a 16S rRNA gene sequence which is specific for strains of the ribospecies 2.

SEQ ID NO: 8 sets out sets out a 16S rRNA gene sequence which is specific for strains of the ribospecies 5.

SEQ ID NO: 9 sets out sets out a 16S rRNA gene sequence which is specific for strains of the ribospecies 4.

SEQ ID NO: 10 sets out sets out a 16S rRNA gene sequence which is specific for ATCC15703 7 and strains of the ribospecies 2 and 5.

SEQ ID NO: 11 sets out sets out a 16S rRNA gene sequence which is specific for strains of the ribospecies 3 and 4.

SEQ ID NO 12 sets out CDS 2439 in Table 3.

SEQ ID NO 13 sets out CDS 2454 in Table 3.

SEQ ID NO 14 sets out CDS 2458 in Table 3

SEQ ID NO 15 sets out CDS 2027 in Table 4

SEQ ID NO 16 sets out CDS 2312 in Table 4.

SEQ ID NO 17 sets out CDS 2314 in Table 4.

SEQ ID NO 18 sets out CDS 2406 in Table 5.

SEQ ID NO 19 sets out CDS 2425 in Table 5.

SEQ ID NO 20 sets out CDS 3350 in Table 6.

SEQ ID NO 21 sets out CDS 3351 in Table 6.

SEQ ID NO 22 sets out CDS 3166 in Table 7.

SEQ ID NO 23 sets out CDS 3123 in Table 7.

SEQ ID NO 24 sets out CDS 2293 in Table 8.

SEQ ID NO 25 sets out CDS 2334 in Table 8.

EXAMPLES

OVERVIEW OF THE EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURE

Bifidobacteria were isolated from human stool from healthy volunteers. Species identity of purified isolates was determined by 16S rDNA sequencing and phylogenetic analysis. 16S phylogenetic analysis showed the presence of 4 clusters (ribospecies) of strains most closely related to the type strain Bifidobacterium adolescentis ATCC 15703 7 , however, clearly distinct from the type strain (B. adolescentis-Wke strains). This subset of bifidobacteria! isolates was further investigated to determine their taxonomic affiliation within the B. adolescentis group. DNA: DNA relatedness investigated by hybridization demonstrated that the strains belong to the B. adolescentis species; however, genome sequencing identified coding sequences (genes) that discriminated 4 clusters of strains similar to the ribospecies that were different from the B. adolescentis ATCC 15703 T type strain. The ability to grow on various carbohydrate sources was investigated using the API system. Starch and glycogen utilization identified 2 subgroups that were different from the type strain.

Functional characteristics related to Gl-health of the B. adolescentis-Wke strains were investigated. The ability to stimulate TJ in epithelial cells was investigated by applying live bacteria to Caco-2 cell monolayers and measuring the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER). Most B. adolescentis-Wke strains increased TER; however to various degree. Local stimulation of the immune system was determined by applying bacteria to human PBMC derived dendritic cells and measuring cytokine production. Several strains induced high levels of IL-10 with an IL-10:IL-12 ration > 1 indicative of an immune regulatory response.

One B. adolescentis-Wke strain was selected for its strong TER inducing capacity and high IL-10 induction and applied in a rat DSS colitis model. The strain significantly improved symptoms induced by DSS treatment.

EXAMPLE 1 - ISOLATION OF BIFIDOBACTERIA FROM HEALTHY HUMANS

Bifidobacteria were isolated from frozen (-80°C) human stool samples collected from healthy volunteers. Written consent to utilize the material for bacterial isolation was obtained from all volunteers. Samples were thawed and 4 g of sample was mixed in a stomacher at high-speed in 35 ml peptone saline with 0.05% cysteine chloride. After thorough mixing, 10-fold serial dilutions were made in peptone saline. One hundred μΙ aliquots were plated from 10 5 , 10 5 , 10 7 , 10 8 , and 10 9 dilutions on Tomato juice/Eugon agar pH 7.0; (Tomato juice, pH adjusted to 7.0 (400 mL/1000 mL), 45 g Eugon agar (Difco) /1000 mL, 1% maltose, 0.05% cysteine chloride, 0.0005% haemin, 40 mg/1000 mL X-gal (5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl- -D-galactopyranoside)), and Columbia medium pH 7.0 (adjusted Beerens medium) agar; (Columbia medium (Difco), 0.005% glucose, 0.1% propionic acid sodium salt, 0.05% cysteine chloride, 40 mg X-gal.

Plates were incubated anaerobically at 37°C. After 3 days, single colonies were picked. Colony morphology was recorded and single cell morphology was determined by microscopy. Colonies having cells with V-shape or Y-shape characteristics of

bifidobacteria were plated on Man Rogosa Sharp (MRS) broth (Oxoid A/S, Denmark) with 0.05% cysteine chloride (Merck KGaA, Germany) and incubated anaerobically at 37°C. Strains were subsequently purified by streaking 3 times on MRS plates with 0.05% cysteine chloride. Purity of strains was tested by spreading on Caso agar (tryptone soya agar with sheep blood), and incubating aerobically, 30°C for 2 days. Pure strains in MRS with 20% glycerol were stored in ampoules at -80°C.

Taxonomic affiliation of fecal isolates was determined by 16S rDNA sequencing and phylogenetic analysis.

127 Bifidobacterium isolates were obtained from human stool samples and further characterized .

EXAMPLE 2 - 16S rDNA SEQUENCING AND PHYLOGENETIC ANALYSIS

Partial 16S rRNA gene sequences were determined by amplification of part of the 16S rDNA with conserved primers 616V ( 5'- AG RGTTTG ATYCKGGCTCAG - 3 ') and 612R (5'- GTAAGGTTCTTCGCGT-3') and subsequent sequencing of the amplification product with conserved primer 610R (5'-ACCGCGGCTGCTGGCAC-3') - Sanger sequencing reactions were performed by LGC Genomics, Berlin, Germany) .

Partial 16S rDNA sequences (E. coli position 27 to 468; Brosius et al ., 1978) from the isolated Bifidobacterium strains and B. adolescentis ATCC 15703 T were aligned using Clustal Omega (http ://www.ebi.ac.uk/Tools/msa/clustalo/) . A phylogenetic tree file was generated by neighbour joining using ClustalW2-Phylogeny

(http ://www.ebi .ac.uk/Tools/phyloqenv/clustalw2 phyloqeny/), and the tree displayed using the Phylodendron Phylogenetic tree printer

(http ://iubio.bio.indiana.edu/treeapp/treeprint-form.html ).

Results

Thirty-six Bifidobacterium strains were most closely related to B. adolescentis based on the 16S rDNA phylogenetic analysis. However, all strains had divergent 16S rDNA sequences from the type strain, B. adolescentis ATCC 15703 T . The strains clustered into

4 distinct groups different from B. adolescentis ATCC 15703 T as showed on the dendrogram in Figure 1. The 4 clusters were labelled ribospecies 2, 3, 4, and 5. Twenty strains constituted a single cluster (ribospecies 2), 12 other strains clustered together (ribospecies 5), and 2 and 3 strains formed 2 clusters respectively (ribospecies 3 and ribospecies 4) . 16S rDNA signature sequences were identified that clearly discriminate the ribospecies from each other and from the type strain (Figure 2) . Signature sequences are labelled on Figure 2. All specific 16S rDNA sequences (signatures) were consistently found among the strains and resulted in the clustering of strains. Thus ribospecies 2 and

5 both have specific sequences at bases 74-75 and 90-93 (E. coli numbering) that separates them from the type strain and ribospecies 3 and 4. Ribospecies 2 can be discerned from ribospecies 5 by the ACC signature (bases 192-194), and by signatures at bases 212-215, 226-232. Signature sequences at bases 262-267 and 287-293 discriminates ribospecies 3 and 4 from the type strain and ribospecies 2 and 5.

Ribospecies 4 differs from the other ribospecies and the type strain by the signature GACAU located at bases 187-191. Hence, the four ribospecies can be unambiguously discriminated from each other and B. adolescentis ATCC 15703 T either by single signature sequences, or by combinations of signatures.

The 16S rDNA phylogenetic analysis demonstrated the existence of 4 clusters

(ribospecies) of bifidobacteria among the strains isolated from human stool that were most closely related to B. adolescentis; however, with very consistent and specific signature sequences differentiating the isolates from the type strain.

To determine the taxonomic status of these ribospecies, representative strains from each group were selected and subjected to DNA-DNA reassociation analysis with type strains belonging to the B. adolescentis group.

EXAMPLE 3 - DNA-DNA REASSOCIATION

DNA-DNA relatedness of a collection of B. adolescentis-Wke strains to Bifidobacterium type strains was determined by BCCM™/LI IG, Bacteria Collection Laboratorium voor Microbiologie Universiteit Gent.

The following cultures were investigated BIF122, DSM 29103 (BIF038), DSM 29107 (BIF106), BIF107, B. adolescentis LMG 10502 T , B. stercoris LMG 27438 T , B. ruminantium LMG 21811 T , B. dentium LMG 11045 T , and B. angulatum LMG 11039 T . These species are all affiliated with the B. adolescentis group.

Bacteria were cultured on LMG medium 144, and checked for purity after incubation at 37°C under anaerobic conditions. Genomic DNA was extracted according to a

modification of the procedure of Gevers et al. (2001). Hybridizations were performed in the presence of 50% formamide at 49°C according to a modification (Goris et al., 1998; Cleenwerck et al., 2002) of the method described by Ezaki et a/. (1989). Reciprocal reactions (A x B and B x A) were performed and the difference between the mean value of A x B and of B x A is for each DNA pair given in Table 1 between brackets.

Results

For BIF122, the difference between the mean value of A x B and that of B x A are generally not within the limits of this method (Table 1) and therefore the DNA: DNA hybridization results of BIF122 are not conclusive.

DSM 29103 (BIF038), DSM 29107 (BIF106), BIF107 show more than 70% DNA-DNA relatedness, generally accepted as the limit for species delineation (Wayne et a/., 1987) among each other and with the type strain of B. adolescentis and B. stercoris. B.

stercoris previously described as a new species is no longer considered a discrete species, but is included with B. adolescentis (Killer et al. 2013).

The type strain of B. ruminantium shows a DNA-DNA relatedness ranging from 36 to 45% with DSM 29103 (BIF038), DSM 29107 (BIF106), BIF107, the type strain of B. adolescentis and B. stercoris (Table 1). In conclusion, the results clearly show that DSM 29103 (BIF038), DSM 29107 (BIF106), BIF107 belong to the species B. adolescentis and that the identified ribospecies are distinct subgroups of this species. Since no firm definition of a subspecies exists, we have maintained the term Ribospecies for these clusters.

Table 1

DNA-DNA relatedness of B. adolescentis-Wke strains to type strains in the B. adolescentis group.

(% DNA relatedness)

For each DNA pair, the difference between the mean value of A x B and B x A is within the limits of this method, except in case of DNA:DNA hybridization with DNA of BIF122, where the difference is generally to high (*). High values between brackets are due to difference in immobilization of the "reciprocal" DNAs. In this study the DNA of BIF122 immobilized in a lower amount on the microplate wells than the other DNAs. The reason for this is unclear.

EXAMPLE 4 - FERMENTATION OF CARBOHYDRATES

Growth of the B. adolescentis type strain and representatives of the 4 ribospecies on various carbohydrate sources was investigated using the API 50 CH assay.

The ability to grow on amidon (starch), amygdalin, arbutin, D-cellobiose, D-fructose, D- galactose, D-glucose, D-lactose (bovine), D-maltose, D-mannitol, D-mannose, D- melbiose, D-melezitose, D-ribose, D-saccarose (sucrose), D-sorbitol, D-trehalose, D- turanose, D-xylose, gentiobiose, glycogen, inulin, kalium 2-ketoglukonat,

kaliumglukonat, L-arabinose, methyl-aD-glucopyranosid, N-acetylglucosamin, salicin, D- adonitol, D-arabinose, D-arabitol, D-fucose, D-lyxose, D-raffinose, D-tagatose, dulcitol, erytritol, esculinferricitrat, glycerol, inositol, kalium 5-ketoglukonat, L-arabitol, L-fucose, L-rhamnose, L-sorbose, L-xylose, methyl-β D-xylopyranosid, methyl-aD- mannopyranosid, and xylitol was investigated on a subset of the isolated B. adolescentis- like strains and compared to the type strain B. adolescentis ATCC 15703 T .

Bifidobacteria were seeded from overnight cultures on Man Rogosa Sharp (MRS) broth (Oxoid A/S, Denmark) with 0.05% cysteine chloride (Merck KGaA, Germany) and incubated anaerobically at 37°C. After 2 days bacteria were harvested from the plates using a swab and suspended in API 50 CHL medium with 0.5% cysteine chloride and the bacterial suspension was distributed into API 50 CH strips according to manufacturer's instructions. Strips were inoculated anaerobically at 37°C. Strips were read after 5 days incubation and color development recorded as +or -.

Results

Eighteen carbohydrates were differentially fermented by the B. adolescentis type strain and the fecal isolates (Table 2). The type strain and the strains belonging to ribospecies 2 and 5 were able to grow on starch as the sole carbohydrate source, while strains of ribospecies 3 and 4 were unable to ferment starch. The type strain and ribospecies 3 and 4 did not grow on glycogen, while ribospecies 2 and 5 grew on this carbohydrate source. All strains of ribospecies 3 and 4 were able to grow on trehalose, while the type strain and 38% of ribospecies 2 and 5 could grow on trehalose. The type strain and 54% of strains belonging to ribospecies 2 and 5 grew on sorbitol, while ribospecies 3 and 4 did not grow on sorbitol.

The ability to ferment and grow on specific carbohydrate sources shows the presence of two clusters of B. adolescentis strains among the human isolates that are different from the type strain. In particular growth on starch and glycogen differentiate the two subgroups from each other and from the type strain.

EXAMPLE 5 - GENOME SEQUENCING

DNA was extracted from overnight cultures of two representatives of each ribospecies: BIF038 (DSM 29103) and BIF060, ribospecies 2; BIF137 and BIF107, ribospecies 3; BIF122 and BIF046 (DSM 29111), ribospecies 4, and BIF016 and BIF106 (DSM 29107), ribospecies 5, with the help of the DNeasy Blood & Tissue Kit (Qiagen, Hilden, Germany). Genome sequencing was performed at Beijing Genomics Institute, Hong Kong, using the NGS platform Illumina, HiSeq® 2000 (San Diego, USA). For each strain 200 megabases data were obtained, consisting of 100 bp paired-end reads with 500 bp spacers.

De novo assembly of the sequencing reads was performed with the help of the CLC Bioinformatics software (Arhus, Denmark). Coding sequences were identified in the resulting contig collections with the help of the Genostar Suite 4.0 (Grenoble, France) module GenoAnnot employing the incorporated Glimmer algorithm. The pangenome functionality in the Pathway Explorer module of Genostar Suite 4.0 was used for building the pangenome of the eight sequenced strains and B. adolescentis ATCC 15703 T

(GenBank acc. No. NC_008618.1).

Results

Unique coding DNA sequences (CDS) were identified in each ribospecies. Thus, CDS were found that were present in the sequenced B. adolescentis-Wke strains and absent in B. adolescentis ATCC 15703 T . Specific CDS were found defining Ribospecies 2 and 5,

Ribospecies 3 and 4, as well as the individual Ribospecies (2, 3, 4, and 5).

The similarity of the amino acid sequences encoded by these CDS to any known proteins was determined by Blast ' searches (http://blast.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/). Searches were done using blastp against all non-redundant GenBank CDS

translations+PDB+SwissProt+PIR+PRF excluding environmental samples from WGS projects.

Table 3 lists 3 CDS found only in Ribospecies 2 and 5.

CDS 2439 encodes a 91 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "hypothetical protein [Bifidobacterium catenulatum] ; WP_003834978.1" (E-score: 3E-22; Identity: 67%). No conserved domains were found, and no significant alignment was found to known proteins.

CDS 2454 encodes a 107 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "hypothetical protein BMOU_0229 [Bifidobacterium moukalabense DSM 27321] ; gbETY72215.1" (E- score: 5E-41; Identity: 65%), with no conserved domain. The best alignment to a non- hypothetical protein is to "nuclear transport factor 2 [Mycobacterium tusciae];

WP_006241648.1" (E-score: 0.004; Identity: 32%) with 1 domain (25-138), "Nuclear transport factor 2 (NTF2-like) superfamily". CDS 2458 encodes a 206 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "bacterial Ig- like domain, group 2 [Bifidobacterium moukalabense DSM 27321] ; ETY72212.1", (E- score: 1E-119; Identity: 90%). No conserved domains were found.

Table 4 lists 3 CDS found only in Ribospecies 3 and 4.

CDS 2027 encodes a 427 amino acid protein aligning significantly to "multidrug transporter MatE [Bifidobacterium catenulatum] ; WP_003834477.1", (E-score: 0.0; Identity: 98%) with a conserved domain "MATE efflux family protein [Bifidobacterium catenulatum DSM 16992 = JCM 1194 = LMG 11043]".

CDS 2312 encodes a 330 amino acid protein with significant alignment to

"MULTISPECIES : ribonucleotide-diphosphate reductase subunit beta [Bifidobacterium] ; WP_003835055.1" (E-score: 0.0; Identity: 97%), with a conserved domain (20-291), "Ribonucleotide Reductase, R2/beta subunit, ferritin-like diiron-binding domain;

cd01049". Homologous proteins have been found in various bifidobacteria, but not in B. adolescentis. In addition CDS 2314 encodes a 766 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "ribonucleotide-diphosphate reductase subunit alpha [Bifidobacterium pseudocatenulatum] ; WP_004221779.1" (E-score: 0.0; Identity: 91%). Thus coding sequences are present in Ribospecies 3 and 4 that encodes both the alpha and beta subunits of this protein. Table 4. Coding sequences found only in ribospecies 3 and 4

CDS Gene product Identity E-score Reference

multidrug transporter MatE

2027 98% 0.0 WP_003834477.1 [Bifidobacterium catenulatum]

MULTISPECIES: ribonucleotide-

2312 diphosphate reductase subunit beta 97% 0.0 WP_003835055.1 [Bifidobacterium]

ribonucleotide-diphosphate reductase

2314 subunit alpha [Bifidobacterium 91% 0.0 WP_004221779.1 pseudocatenulatum]

Table 5 lists 2 CDS found only in Ribospecies 2.

CDS 2406 encodes a 362 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "hypothetical protein [Bifidobacterium catenulatum] ; WP_003835002.1" (E-score: 0.0; Identity: 99%), with a conserved domain (22-114), "Type I restriction enzyme R protein N terminus (HSDR_N)".

CDS 2425 encodes a 66 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "hypothetical protein [Bifidobacterium bourn] ; WP_026502472.1" (E-score: 1E-37; Identity: 100%) with no conserved domains. The best alignment to a non-hypothetical protein is to "OmpA family membrane protein [Hyphomonas neptunium] ; WP_011646448.1" (E- score: 0.87; Identity: 48%), with 2 conserved domains (411-536), "Outer membrane protein and related peptidoglycan-associated (lipo)proteins [Cell envelope biogenesis, outer membrane] ; COG2885"; (430-534), "Peptidoglycan binding domains similar to the C-terminal domain of outer-membrane protein OmpA; cd07185".

Table 6 lists 2 CDS found only in Ribospecies 5.

CDS 3350 encodes a 60 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "hypothetical protein [Pseudoclavibacter soli] ; WP_028244556.1" (E-score: 7E-13; Identity: 53%), with a conserved domain (41-252), "Dolichyl-phosphate-mannose-protein

mannosyltransferase".

CDS 3351 encodes a 462 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "hypothetical protein [Bifidobacterium bifidum] ; WP_003815303.1" (E-score: 4E-42; Identity: 31%), with a conserved domain (1-312), "Dolichyl-phosphate-mannose-protein

mannosyltransferase".

Table 7 lists 2 CDS found only in Ribospecies 3.

CDS 3123 encodes a 612 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "hypothetical protein [Bifidobacterium angulatum] ; WP_003826727.1" (E-score: 1E-170; Identity: 98%) with a conserved domain (12-213), "lantibiotic protection ABC transporter permease subunit, MutE/EpiE family; TIGR03732".

CDS 3166 encodes a 612 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "fimbrial isopeptide formation D2 domain-containing protein [Bifidobacterium breve] ;

WP_016462071.1" (E-score: 0.0; Identity: 95%), with 3 domains (225-407), "fimbrial isopeptide formation D2 domain; TIGR04226"; (444-532) "Cna protein B-type domain; pfam05738"; (577-610), "LPXTG-motif cell wall anchor domain; TIGR01167".

Table 8 lists 2 CDS found only in Ribospecies 4.

CDS 2293 encodes an 1156 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "ATP-binding protein [Bifidobacterium ruminantium] ; WP_026645899.1 (E-score: 0.0; Identity: 97%), with 2 conserved domains (627-842), "Domain of unknown function DUF87; cll9135"; (638-958), "AAA-like domain; pfaml2846".

CDS 2334 encodes a 141 amino acid protein with significant alignment to "XRE family transcriptional regulator [Eggerthella lenta] ; WP_015760296.1 (E-score:3E-87; Identity: 92%), with 2 conserved domains (4-117), "Predicted transcriptional regulators

[Transcription] ; COG1396"; (4-61) "Helix-turn-helix XRE-family like proteins".

EXAMPLE 6 - STIMULATION OF TIGHT JUNCTIONS IN CELL MONOLAYERS

Intestinal barrier improvement was measured by the strains' ability to increase the electrical resistance across Caco-2 cell monolayers (trans-epithelial electrical resistance; TER).

Culturing of Caco-2 cells

The mammalian intestinal epithelial Caco-2 cell line (DSMZ ACC 169, Leibniz-Institut

DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Braunschweig, Germany) was cultured in DMEM (Gibco) supplemented with 20% heat inactivated fetal bovine serum (Gibco), IX Non-essential amino acids (Thermo Scientific), and IX Pen Strep (Biological industries) at 37°C, 5% C0 2 in an incubator. Caco-2 cells were used from passage 15 to 25. Cells were trypsinized when 60-80% confluent. A cell suspension of 10 5 cells/ml was prepared in DMEM and 500 μΙ was seeded in the apical compartment of 12 mm, 0.4 μηη pore size Transwell ® polyester membrane inserts (Corning, USA), while 1.5 ml of medium was added to the basolateral compartment. Cells were cultured on the inserts for 21 days with change of medium twice a week.

At day 21 the Transwell inserts were moved to a cellZscope ® (nanoAnalytics, Germany). Culture medium was changed to antibiotics free medium, and accordingly 760 μΙ and 1.65 ml DMEM without antibiotics was added to the apical and basolateral compartment, respectively. The CellZscope was placed in the incubator and TER was monitored every hour for 20-23 hours with automatic data collection.

Preparation of bifidobacteria

Bifidobacteria were cultured overnight anaerobically in Man Rogosa Sharp (MRS) broth (Oxoid A/S, Denmark) with 0.05% cysteine chloride (Merck KGaA, Germany). Bacteria were harvested by centrifugation (6000 x g, 2 min), the supernatant discarded and bacteria resuspended in DMEM. Bacteria were again harvested by centrifugation and resuspended in DMEM to wash cells. After a third centrifugation bacteria were resuspended in DMEM and OD 500 measured . Cell suspension was diluted to OD 500 = 3.8. Stimulation of Caco-2 cells

To stimulate Caco-2 cells with bifidobacteria 100 μΙ of DMEM was gently removed from the apical part of the Transwell inserts and replaced by 100 μΙ of bacterial suspension to give a final OD 50 o of 0.5. Then the CellZscope was transferred back into the incubator and TER was recorded every hour for 16 hours. All stimulations were done in triplicates (3 independent Transwells) . DMEM without bacterial supplementation was used as control, i.e. unstimulated Caco-2 monolayers. Also included in each experiment was stimulation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG, which is a strain that strongly stimulates TER. LGG was used to normalize data between individual experiments. The overnight measurement of TER before experiment start allowed for determination of the baseline TER in each individual well and to ensure that the electrical resistance was stable.

Changes in TER during bacterial stimulation were calculated relative to the latest value recorded prior to stimulation (set to 100%) . In order to compare measurements from individual experiments data were normalized to the TER values measured after stimulation with LGG.

Results

The ability to increase TER in Caco-2 monolayers was tested in 21 B. adolescentis-Wke strains. Continuously measuring of TER showed that after 10 hours of stimulation TER reached a plateau followed by very little increase (Figure 3) . Accordingly, the ability of each strain to improve TER after 10 h was recorded and the strains compared at this time point. Most B. adolescentis-Wke strains increased TER of Caco-2 monolayers, but to varying degrees (Figure 4) . Six strains increased TER after 10 h to more than 120% of the resistance recorded before stimulation (DSM 29102 (BIF123), 148%; DSM 29107 (BIF106), 146%; DSM 29103 (BIF038), 142%; BIF060, 126%; BIF113, 124%; BIF016, 122%). Nine strains increased TER 110% to 120% relative to the value before stimulation while six strains had no effect on TER. Strains increasing TER to > 120% of the resistance value prior to stimulation of Caco-2 monolayers were considered having a significant effect on the epithelial barrier. Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG increased TER to 155% ± 25% of the resistance before stimulation in all experiments. EXAMPLE 7 - IMMUNE MODULATION OF DENDRITIC CELLS

The potential immune-regulatory effect of B. adolescentis-like strains was investigated by determining the induction of cytokines in human dendritic cells after stimulation. Preparation of bifidobacteria

Frozen bifidobacteria cultures for dendritic cells (DC) stimulation were prepared by inoculating bifidobacteria in 10 mL Man Rogosa Sharp (MRS) broth (Oxoid A/S, Denmark) with 0.05% cysteine chloride (Merck KGaA, Germany) and anaerobically culturing overnight at 37°C. The following day, 1% of the overnight culture was inoculated in MRS with 0.05% cysteine chloride and grown anaerobically overnight at 37°C. To pick bifidobacteria in exponential growth phase, 100 μΙ of the fresh overnight culture was inoculated in 10 mL MRS (1% dilution) with 0.05% cysteine chloride; five sequential 10- fold dilutions (10 1 to 10 "5 ) were made from the 1% inoculation and grown anaerobically over night at 37°C. Bacterial density was adjusted to OD 50 o = 5, and cultures frozen at -80°C in 10% glycerol in microtiter trays.

Monocyte-derived DC generation

Immature monocyte-derived DCs were generated in vitro by a 6-day procedure. Human buffy coats from healthy donors were supplied by Department of Clinical Immunology at Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark. Use of human samples with no identifying information was approved by The National Committee on Health Research and the Danish Society for Clinical Immunology, and all donors gave informed written consent upon donation. Briefly, human peripheral blood mononuclear cells were obtained from buffy coats by density gradient centrifugation using Ficoll-Paque PLUS (GE

Healthcare, Freiburg, Germany). Monocytes were isolated by positive selection for CD14 using magnetic-activated cell sorting with CD14 microbeads (Miltenyi Biotec, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany) and cultured at a density of 2xl0 5 cells/mL in complete DC media (RPMI 1640 supplemented with 10 mM HEPES (Sigma-Aldrich, Schnelldorf, Germany), 50 mM 2-mercaptoethanol (Sigma-Aldrich, Schnelldorf, Germany), 2 mM L-glutamine (Life Technologies Ltd, Paisley, UK), 10% heat-inactivated fetal bovine serum (Invitrogen, Paisley, UK), 100 U/mL penicillin (Biological Industries, Kibbutz Beit-Haemek, Israel), and 100 mg/mL streptomycin (Biological Industries, Kibbutz Beit-Haemek, Israel)) containing 30 ng/mL human recombinant IL-4 and 20 ng/mL human recombinant GM- CSF (both from Sigma-Aldrich, Saint Louis, USA) at 37°C, 5% C0 2 . Fresh complete DC media containing full doses of IL-4 and GM-CSF was added after three days of culture. At day 6, differentiation to immature DCs was verified by surface marker expression analysis (CDllc > 90% expression; CDla > 75% expression).

DC stimulation

Immature DCs were resuspended in fresh complete DC media containing no antibiotics, seeded in 96-well plates at 10 5 cells/well, and allowed to acclimate at 37°C, 5% C0 2 , for at least one hour before stimulation. DCs were stimulated with thawed bifidobacteria at a bacteria : DC ratio of 100: 1, for 20 h at 37°C, 5% C0 2 . After 20 h stimulation, DC supernatants were sterile filtered through a 0.2 μηη AcroPrep Advance 96-well filter plate (Pall Corporation, Ann Arbor, MI, USA) and stored at -80°C until time of cytokine quantification.

DC staining for quantification of co-stimulatory molecules and chemokine receptors Immediately following 20 h stimulation time, DCs were collected, centrifuged at 200 x g for 5 min, and resuspended in cold PBS containing 2% BSA. Staining was performed using the following monoclonal antibodies: FITC-conjugated anti-human CD80 (clone L307.4), FITC-conjugated anti-human CD86 (clone 2331), APC-conjugated anti-human CCR6 (clone 11A9), FITC conjugated anti-human CCR7 (clone 150503), and appropriate isotype controls (all from BD Biosciences, Erembodegem, Belgium). DCs were incubated with mAb for 30 min on ice protected from light, followed by repeated wash steps using 1 ml_ cold PBS 2% BSA. Finally, DCs were resuspended in PBS 2% BSA and kept on ice until flow cytometric analysis. Samples were acquired on an LSRFortessa flow cytometer (BD Biosciences, SanJose, CA, USA) using FACSDiva software (BD Biosciences, SanJose, CA, USA).

Cytokine Quantification

Secreted levels of IL-10, IL-12, TNFa, IL-6, and IL-Ιβ were quantified by the Human Inflammatory Cytokines cytometric bead array (CBA) kit (BD Biosciences, Erembodegem, Belgium) according to the manufacturer's instructions. Briefly, fluorescent beads coated with monoclonal capture antibodies were mixed with PE conjugated detection antibodies and recombinant standards or test samples and allowed to form sandwich complexes during 3 h incubation protected from light. After repeated wash steps, samples were acquired on an LSRFortessa flow cytometer (BD Biosciences, San Jose, CA, USA) and data analysis was performed using the FCAP Array 3 software (BD Biosciences, San Jose, CA, USA). Detection limits for individual cytokines were as follows: 1.9 pg/mL IL-12, 3.7 pg/mL TNFa, 3.3 pg/mL IL-10, 2.5 pg/mL IL-6, and 7.2 pg/mL IL-Ιβ.

Results

B. adolescentis-Wke strains induced cytokine secretion in human dendritic cells. Since all the B. adolescentis-Wke strains could not be tested in a single screen, DCs derived from different donors were used. Substantial variations in the overall cytokine response among donors were found and consequently cytokine data were normalized to compare results from different donors. Raw cytokine data were normalized to the average expression for each cytokine and each donor. Thirteen B. adolescentis-Wke strains stimulated IL-10 secretion above the detection limit and significantly different from unstimulated cells (Figure 5), among these in particular DSM 29111 (BIF046), DSM 29105 (BIF061), DSM 29106 (BIF084), DSM 29103 (BIF038) and DSM 29104 (BIF129). Ten of these B. adolescentis-Wke strains in addition resulted in an IL-10/IL-12 secretion ratio greater than one suggesting an immune-regulatory potential (DSM 29111 (BIF046), 2.1; DSM 29106 (BIF084), 1.1; DSM 29103 (BIF038), 1.1; DSM 29104 (BIF129), 2.8; BIF056, 1.1; BIF059, 1.1; BIF027, 1.3; DSM 29102 (BIF123), 1.1; BIF016, 1.1; DSM 29107 (BIF106), 1.6).

Summary of selected in vitro results

Table 9 presents a summary of the in vitro results of the deposited strains. Strains were selected that are capable of increasing the trans-epithelial electrical resistance (TER) of a Caco-2 cell monolayer after lOh treatment to more than 120% of TER at treatment start, capable of inducing secretion of >200 pg/ml of IL-10, when co-incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells, or capable of inducing an IL-10:IL-12 ratio > 1 when co- incubated with human PBMC derived dendritic cells, or a combination of two or more of these functions.

EXAMPLE 8 - EFFECT OF B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) ON DSS INDUCED COLITIS

In vivo, B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) was tested in a dextran sodium sulphate (DSS) colitis model in rats. DSS colitis is a model of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, including ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease, for which worldwide incidence and prevalence has been shown to increase (Molodecky et al., 2012). The underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of DSS colitis include inflammation, crypt destruction and increased intestinal permeability. Disease symptoms in DSS colitis correspond to what is observed in human UC, including body weight loss, diarrhea and fecal blood loss (Herias et al. 2005).

In this study, male Wistar rats 8 weeks of age (N = 18 per DSS groups, N = 6 for the healthy controls) received a semi-purified humanized diet (high in fat, low in fibers) to mimic human conditions. The animals were housed individually in metabolic cages with a stainless steel floor to facilitate collection of faces and urine completely separately. The metabolic cages had feed tunnels to avoid feed spilling and to ensure correct

measurement of feed intake. Approximately 10 10 CFU/day B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) or placebo was dosed as freeze dried powder suspended in saline. After two weeks of B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) or vehicle (saline) dosing by oral gavage colitis was introduced by adding 3% DSS in the drinking water for 9 days.

During DSS exposure body weights were recorded daily in order to measure

inflammation-induced anorexia. Stool consistency and blood in the stool was scored daily during colitis as measures of severity of disease. Stool consistency were scored according to the following parameters 0; formed and hard stools, 1 ; formed but soft stools, 2; loose stools, 3; mild diarrhea (watery) and 4; gross diarrhea. Inert chromium CrEDTA (2 g/kg feed) was added to the diet to quantify gastrointestinal permeability. Dietary CrEDTA intake was determined daily by weighing the feed of the animals and

gastrointestinal permeability was assessed by determining CrEDTA once before (day -1/- 2) and twice during colitis (day 4/5 and day 7/8) in 24-hour urine samples. For Cr measurement, urine was acidified with 50 g/L trichloroacetic acid, centrifuged at 14.000 g for 2 min and diluted with 0.5 g/L CsCI. Chromium was analyzed by inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrophotometry.

At termination the colon was examined to evaluate macroscopic lesions according to the Wallace criteria (Wallace et al., 1989), which is based on diarrhea, adhesion,

hyperaemia, thickening of the bowel and extent of ulceration. Moreover, a 2-cm piece from the middle of the colon was cut out, stored in 4% paraformaldehyde, embedded in paraffin, sliced and stained with hematoxylin and eosin. Histological slides were blinded and scored according to the Cooper score (Cooper et al., 1993).

Results are presented as mean+SEM and the statistical evaluation of the data was performed as follows: for paired data non-parametric paired Wilcoxon test was performed for the bacteria-dosed group and the healthy control against DSS (vehicle group). Non-paired data was checked for normality using the Shapiro Wilk's test and for even variances in the groups by Bartlett's test. When criteria was met Student's t-test were performed between the bacteria-dosed group and healthy control versus DSS. If the criteria were not met the Mann Whitney U test was used.

Results

Body weight were recorded daily during DSS exposure and B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) significantly inhibited DSS-induced body weight loss (p=0.002) compared to the DSS group (Figure 6).

B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) had significantly lower (p=0.048) loose stool and diarrhea in terms of area under curve stool consistency score by approximately 10% compared to the DSS group (Figure 7). Also the number of animals with a fecal bleeding score at termination was lowered by 30%; 7 out of 18 animals in the B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) group versus 10 out of 18 in the DSS group (Figure 8). Whole gut permeability increased during the DSS challenge, and by day 7.5 CrEDTA in urine per average water intake had increased by 129% in the DSS group compared to healthy controls. B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) borderline significantly (p=0.057) dampened the DSS-induced permeability by 30% on day 7.5 (Figure 9).

Statistically significant difference of 26% was also observed when comparing histological scoring at termination between the B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) group and the DSS group (p=0.049), whereas macroscopic scoring at termination was lowered by 19% in the B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) group compared to DSS (Figure 10 and 11, respectively).

Overall, this intervention with B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) led to improvements in disease-induced anorexia, stool consistency, number of animals, fecal bleeding, macro-and microscopic scoring and intestinal permeability compared to rats receiving the DSS treatment alone.

These data indicate that B. adolescentis DSM 29103 (BIF038) prevents and/or inhibits inflammation and tissue damage in the gastrointestinal tract as well as inhibits diarrhea and induces an overall health promoting effect in terms of body weight.

DEPOSIT and EXPERT SOLUTION

The applicant requests that a sample of micro-organisms deposited for the present application as described below may only be made available to an expert, until the date on which the patent is granted.

CHCC12845 was deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession no. DSM 29102.

CHCC12855 was deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession no. DSM 29103.

CHCC12867 was deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession no. DSM 29104. CHCC12895 was deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession no. DSM 29105. CHCC12957 was deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession no. DSM 29106. CHCC12999 was deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession no. DSM 29107.

CHCC12876 was deposited with DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7B, D-38124 Braunschweig, on July 16, 2014 under the accession no. DSM 29111.

The deposits were made according to the Budapest treaty on the international recognition of the deposit of microorganisms for the purposes of patent procedure.

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