Research ArticleGenomics

The Impact of a Consortium of Fermented Milk Strains on the Gut Microbiome of Gnotobiotic Mice and Monozygotic Twins

Science Translational Medicine  26 Oct 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 106, pp. 106ra106
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002701

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Understanding how the human gut microbiota and host are affected by probiotic bacterial strains requires carefully controlled studies in humans and in mouse models of the gut ecosystem where potentially confounding variables that are difficult to control in humans can be constrained. Therefore, we characterized the fecal microbiomes and metatranscriptomes of adult female monozygotic twin pairs through repeated sampling 4 weeks before, 7 weeks during, and 4 weeks after consumption of a commercially available fermented milk product (FMP) containing a consortium of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis, two strains of Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris, and Streptococcus thermophilus. In addition, gnotobiotic mice harboring a 15-species model human gut microbiota whose genomes contain 58,399 known or predicted protein-coding genes were studied before and after gavage with all five sequenced FMP strains. No significant changes in bacterial species composition or in the proportional representation of genes encoding known enzymes were observed in the feces of humans consuming the FMP. Only minimal changes in microbiota configuration were noted in mice after single or repeated gavage with the FMP consortium. However, RNA-Seq analysis of fecal samples and follow-up mass spectrometry of urinary metabolites disclosed that introducing the FMP strains into mice results in significant changes in expression of microbiome-encoded enzymes involved in numerous metabolic pathways, most prominently those related to carbohydrate metabolism. B. animalis subsp. lactis, the dominant persistent member of the FMP consortium in gnotobiotic mice, up-regulates a locus in vivo that is involved in the catabolism of xylooligosaccharides, a class of glycans widely distributed in fruits, vegetables, and other foods, underscoring the importance of these sugars to this bacterial species. The human fecal metatranscriptome exhibited significant changes, confined to the period of FMP consumption, that mirror changes in gnotobiotic mice, including those related to plant polysaccharide metabolism. These experiments illustrate a translational research pipeline for characterizing the effects of FMPs on the human gut microbiome.


  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Present address: Section of Microbial Pathogenesis and Microbial Diversity Institute, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06536, USA.

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