Robert Hutkins

Hutkins Research AreaThe Hutkins Lab studies bacteria important in fermented foods and in human health. We are particularly interested in understanding: (1) factors affecting persistence and colonization of probiotic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract; (2) how prebiotics shift the intestinal microbiota and metabolic activities in humans and animals; (3) how such shifts affect host health; and (4) how a combination of pro- and prebiotics (synbiotics) can enhance health outcomes.  We address these questions using next generation sequencing, metagenomics, and other molecular techniques. Both clinical in vivo, as well as in vitro approaches are used. We are also interested in the specific molecular mechanisms and pathways used by probiotic lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria to metabolize prebiotic oligosaccharides. Finally, our group has begun to develop application strategies for incorporating prebiotics into foods.

Recent Publications

  • Gibson, G.R., R. Hutkins, M.E. Sanders, S.L. Prescott, R.A. Reimer, S.J. Salminen, K. Scott, C. Stanton, K.S. Swanson, P.D. Cani, K. Verbeke, and G. Reid. 2017. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics. Nat. Rev. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 14:491-502.
  • Marco, M.L., D. Heeney, S. Binda, C.J. Cifelli, P.D. Cotter, B. Foligné, M. Gänzle, R. Kort, G. Pasin, A. Pihlanto, E.J. Smid, and R. Hutkins. 2017. Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 44:94-102.
  • Maldonado-Gomez, M.X., I. Martínez, F. Bottacini, A. O’Callaghan, M. Ventura, D. van Sinderen, B. Hillmann, P. Vangay, D. Knights, R.W. Hutkins, and J. Walter. 2016. Stable engraftment of Bifidobacterium longum AH1206 in the human gastrointestinal tract depends on individualized features of the resident microbiome. Cell Host Microbe. 20:515–526.
  • Krumbeck, J.A. N.L. Marsteller, S.A. Frese, D.A. Peterson, A.E. Ramer-Tait, R.W. Hutkins, and J. Walter. 2016. Characterization of the ecological role of genes mediating acid resistance in Lactobacillus reuteri during colonization of the gastrointestinal tract. Environ. Microbiol.
  • Hutkins, R.W., J.A. Krumbeck, L.B. Bindels, P.D. Cani, G. Fahey, Jr., Y.J. Goh, B. Hamaker, E.C. Martens, D.A. Mills, R.A. Rastal, E. Vaughan, and M.E. Sanders. 2016. Prebiotics: why definitions matter. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 37:1–7.
  • Krumbeck, J.A., M.X. Maldonado-Gomez, A.E. Ramer-Tait, and R.W. Hutkins. 2016. Prebiotics and synbiotics - dietary strategies for improving gut health. Curr. Opin. Gastroenterol. 32:110-119.
  • Krumbeck, J.A., M.X. Maldonado-Gomez, I. Martínez, S.A. Frese, T.E. Burkey, K. Rasineni, A.E. Ramer-Tait, E.N. Harris, R.W. Hutkins, and J. Walter. 2015. In vivo selection to identify bacterial strains with enhanced ecological performance in synbiotic applications. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 81:2445-2465.

Teaching Activities:
Contemporary Issues in Food Science
Food Microbiology
Microbiology of Fermented Foods


Dr. Robert Hutkins
Khem Shahani Professor of Food Science

Ph.D. in Food Microbiology, 1984, from the University of Minnesota.

M.S. in Food Science, 1980, from the University of Missouri.

B.S. in Food Science, 1979, from the University of Missouri.

Professional Experience
1987 - Present: Professor, Department of Food Science and Technology,
University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Appointment in the School of Biological Sciences.

1986 - 1987: Research Scientist, Sanofi Bio Ingredients, Inc.,
Waukesha, Wisconsin.

1984 - 1986: Post-Doctoral Research Associate,
Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology, Boston, Mass.

Contact Information
258 Food Innovation Center
Lincoln, NE 68588-6205
402 472 2820

Nebraska Food for Health Center