Bifidobacteria are members of the gut microbiota of animals, including mammals, birds, and social insects. In this study, we analyzed and determined the pangenome of Bifidobacterium animalis species, encompassing B. animalis subsp. animalis and the B. animalis subsp. lactis taxon, which is one of the most intensely exploited probiotic bifidobacterial species. In order to reveal differences within the B. animalis species, detailed comparative genomics and phylogenomics analyses were performed, indicating that these two subspecies recently arose through divergent evolutionary events. A subspecies-specific core genome was identified for both B. animalis subspecies, revealing the existence of subspecies-defining genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. Notably, these in silico analyses coupled with carbohydrate profiling assays suggest genetic adaptations toward a distinct glycan milieu for each member of the B. animalis subspecies, resulting in a divergent evolutionary development of the two subspecies.IMPORTANCE The majority of characterized B. animalis strains have been isolated from human fecal samples. In order to explore genome variability within this species, we isolated 15 novel strains from the gastrointestinal tracts of different animals, including mammals and birds. The present study allowed us to reconstruct the pangenome of this taxon, including the genome contents of 56 B. animalis strains. Through careful assessment of subspecies-specific core genes of the B. animalis subsp. animalis/lactis taxon, we identified genes encoding enzymes involved in carbohydrate transport and metabolism, while unveiling specific gene acquisition and loss events that caused the evolutionary emergence of these two subspecies.
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