AIMS The metabolism by bifidobacteria of exopolysaccharide (EPS) produced by Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis was investigated. To evaluate the significance of the EPS produced by Lact. sanfranciscensis during dough fermentation on the overall prebiotic properties of bread, metabolism by bifidobacteria of water-soluble polysaccharides (WSP) from wheat and rye was investigated. METHODS AND RESULTS Polyglucose and polyfructan contained in WSP from wheat and rye were metabolized by bifidobacteria. In contrast, WSP isolated from fermented doughs were not metabolized by bifidobacteria. The arabioxylan fraction of WSP was metabolized neither by bifidobacteria nor by lactobacilli. All the bifidobacteria tested were able to metabolize fructan from Lact. sanfranciscensis. The kinetics of EPS metabolism by various bifidobacteria were characterized by diauxic utilization of fructose and EPS. CONCLUSIONS Bifidobacteria metabolize fructan from Lact. sanfranciscensis. Polyfructan and the starch fractions from wheat and rye, which possess a bifidogenic effect, were degraded by cereal enzymes during dough fermentation, while the EPS were retained. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY EPS produced by sourdough lactic acid bacteria will improve the nutritional properties of sourdough fermented products.