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Probiotic strains with designed health properties

Contract number : QLK1-2000-00146
Contract type : Shared Cost Project
Total cost : € 2.234.429
EC contribution : € 1.406.028
Starting date : 1/02/2001
Duration : 36 Months
Scientific Officer : Jürgen Lucas
Project website :
Prof. Dr Annick Mercenier
Dr Pierre Desrumaux
Institut Pasteur de Lille
Département de Microbiologie des Ecosystèmes
Rue du Professeur Calmette, 1
59019 Lille
Tel.: +33-3-20871186/+41-21-7858466
Fax: +33-3-20871192/+41-21-7858549
E-mail: annick.mercenier @             annick.mercenier @

The Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) are well-known for their extensive use in the preparation of fermented food products. In addition, the potential health benefits they may exert in humans have been intensively investigated during the last century. However, the mechanisms underlying the health promoting traits attributed to LAB, especially lactobacilli, remain vastly unknown, which has impaired the rational design of probiotic screening methods with accurate predictive value. This project first aims at establishing a correlation between in vitro tests and mouse models mimicking important human intestinal disorders such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Helicobacter pylori- and Rotavirus-infections. As these diseases correspond to major public health problems, second generation probiotic strains with enhanced prophylactic or therapeutic properties will also be designed during the project. These designed strains and the isogenic parental ones will be used to unravel mechanisms involved in the immunomodulation capacity of specific lactobacillus strains.


The general purpose of this project is to acquire knowledge about the molecular factors affecting the immunomodulation and/or immunogenicity of selected probiotic lactobacilli so that, in the future, isolates with enhanced protective or therapeutic effect can be screened for or engineered. The objectives of the proposal are on one hand, to unravel mechanisms and identify key components of the immunomodulation capacity of probiotic lactobacilli; and on the other hand, to design "second generation" probiotic strains with enhanced properties against gastro-intestinal disorders.

Two types of gastro-intestinal diseases are targeted: inflammations such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and infections such as those caused by H. pylori and Rotavirus. For each of them, "therapeutic" or "prophylactic" (i.e. vaccine) recombinant probiotic strains will be constructed and tested in relevant animal models (i.e. mimicking the human disease) to evaluate their capacity to induce or modulate the immune response in the proper way. This data will be correlated to in vitro testing of the immunomodulation capacity with the hope to identify/develop screening methods that, in the future, will allow isolating efficient probiotic strains targeted to specific applications. Recombinant DNA technology will also be used to assess the importance of specific cell wall components and adhesion factors in immunomodulation.

(expected) Results and achievements

Two types of modified probiotic strains will be constructed: mutant strains affected in their cell wall composition and adhesion proteins as well as recombinant strains with enhanced therapeutic or protective properties, focusing on gastrointestinal diseases of inflammatory (IBD) or infectious (H. pylori and Rotavirus) origin. The final goal would be to prove that designed probiotic strains could be used as original therapeutic agents as, if successful, they would lead to novel anti-inflammatory treatments or oral vaccines against Helicobacter pylori and rotavirus, respectively. It is also expected that, by the end of the study, major progress will have been achieved towards the rational design of simplified probiotic screening methods with accurate predictive value.


Universiteit Gent
Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology
Department of Molecular Biology
K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35
9000 Gent
Université Catholique de Louvain
Department of Biology
Unit of Genetics
Croix du Sud, 5
1348 Louvain-la-Neuve
St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College
Department of Medical Microbiology
West Smithfield
EC1A 7BE London
United Kingdom
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
Department of Food Biotechnology
Instituto de Agroquímica y Tecnología de Alimentos
Polígono de la Coma S/N
PO Box 73
46100 Burjassot, Valencia
Universidad de Valencia
Facultad de Medicina
Departamento de Microbiología
Avenido Blasco Ibanez 17
46010 Valencia
Università degli Studi di Siena
Dipartimento di Biologia Molecolare
Via Laterina, 6
53100 Siena
Rhodia Food S.A.S.
25, quai Paul Doumer
92408 Courbevoie Cedex
The University of New South Wales
School of Microbiology and Immunology
NSW 2052
UNSW Sydney

Fifth Framework Programme

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