To determine the roles of L-fucose and D-ribose, an E. coli MG1655 DeltafucAO mutant and an E. coli MG1655 DeltarbsK mutant were fed separately to mice along with wild-type E. coli MG1655. The E. coli MG1655 DeltafucAO mutant colonized the intestine at a level 2 orders of magnitude lower than that of the wild type, but the E. coli MG1655 DeltarbsK mutant and the wild type colonized at nearly identical levels. Surprisingly, an E. coli MG1655 DeltafucAO DeltarbsK mutant was eliminated from the intestine by either wild-type E. coli MG1655 or E. coli MG1655 DeltafucAO, suggesting that the DeltafucAO mutant switches to ribose in vivo. Indeed, in vitro growth experiments showed that L-fucose stimulated utilization of D-ribose by the E. coli MG1655 DeltafucAO mutant but not by an E. coli MG1655 DeltafucK mutant.
Since the DeltafucK mutant cannot convert L-fuculose to L-fuculose-1-phosphate, whereas the DeltafucAO mutant accumulates L-fuculose-1-phosphate, the data suggest that L-fuculose-1-phosphate stimulates growth on ribose both in the intestine and in vitro.
An E. coli Nissle 1917 DeltafucAO mutant, derived from a human probiotic commensal strain, acted in a manner identical to that of E. coli MG1655 DeltafucAO in vivo and in vitro. Furthermore, L-fucose at a concentration too low to support growth stimulated the utilization of ribose by the wild-type E. coli strains in vitro. Collectively, the data suggest that L-fuculose-1-phosphate plays a role in the regulation of ribose usage as a carbon source by E. coli MG1655 and E. coli Nissle 1917 in the mouse intestine.