In recent years, various studies have demonstrated that the gut microbiota influences host metabolism. However, these studies were focused primarily on a single or a limited range of host species, thus preventing a full exploration of possible taxonomic and functional adaptations by gut microbiota members as a result of host-microbe coevolution events. In the current study, the microbial taxonomic profiles of 250 fecal samples, corresponding to 77 host species that cover the mammalian branch of the tree of life, were reconstructed by 16S rRNA gene-based sequence analysis. Moreover, shotgun metagenomics was employed to investigate the metabolic potential of the fecal microbiomes of 24 mammals, and subsequent statistical analyses were performed to assess the impact of host diet and corresponding physiology of the digestive system on gut microbiota composition and functionality. Functional data were confirmed and extended through metatranscriptome assessment of gut microbial populations of eight animals, thus providing insights into the transcriptional response of gut microbiota to specific dietary lifestyles. Therefore, the analyses performed in this study support the notion that the metabolic features of the mammalian gut microbiota have adapted to maximize energy extraction from the host’s diet. IMPORTANCE Diet and host physiology have been recognized as main factors affecting both taxonomic composition and functional features of the mammalian gut microbiota. However, very few studies have investigated the bacterial biodiversity of mammals by using large sample numbers that correspond to multiple mammalian species, thus resulting in an incomplete understanding of the functional aspects of their microbiome. Therefore, we investigated the bacterial taxonomic composition of 250 fecal samples belonging to 77 host species distributed along the tree of life in order to assess how diet and host physiology impact the intestinal microbial community by selecting specific microbial players. Conversely, the application of shotgun metagenomics and metatranscriptomics approaches to a group of selected fecal samples allowed us to shed light on both metabolic features and transcriptional responses of the intestinal bacterial community based on different diets.
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