Fecal microbiota variation across the lifespan of the healthy laboratory rat

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Flemer, Burkhardt
Gaci, Nadia
Borrel, Guillaume
Sanderson, Ian R.
Chaudhary, Prem P.
Tottey, William
O'Toole, Paul W.
Brugère, Jean-François
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Taylor & Francis Inc
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Laboratory rats are commonly used in life science research as a model for human biology and disease, but the composition and development of their gut microbiota during life is poorly understood. We determined the fecal microbiota composition of healthy Sprague Dawley laboratory rats from 3 weeks to 2 y of age, kept under controlled environmental and dietary conditions. Additionally, we determined fecal short-chain fatty acid profiles, and we compared the rat fecal microbiota with that of mice and humans. Gut microbiota and to a lesser extent SCFAs profiles separated rats into 3 different clusters according to age: before weaning, first year of life (12-to 26-week-old animals) and second year of life (52-to 104-week-old). A core of 46 bacterial species was present in all rats but its members' relative abundance progressively decreased with age. This was accompanied by an increase of microbiota alpha-diversity, likely due to the acquisition of environmental microorganisms during the lifespan. Contrastingly, the functional profile of the microbiota across animal species became more similar upon aging. Lastly, the microbiota of rats and mice were most similar to each other but at the same time the microbiota profile of rats was more similar to that of humans than was the microbiota profile of mice. These data offer an explanation as to why germ-free rats are more efficient recipients and retainers of human microbiota than mice. Furthermore, experimental design should take into account dynamic changes in the microbiota of model animals considering that their changing gut microbiota interacts with their physiology.
Gut microbiota , Human biologic model , Lifespan evolution , Rat , Rattus norvegicus
Flemer, B., Gaci, N., Borrel, G., Sanderson, I. R., Chaudhary, P. P., Tottey, W., O'Toole, P. W. and Brugère, J.-F. (2017) 'Fecal microbiota variation across the lifespan of the healthy laboratory rat', Gut Microbes, 8(5), pp. 428-439. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2017.1334033