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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2004 Mar 1;47(3):337-43. doi: 10.1016/S0168-6496(03)00285-X.

Gnotobiotic rats harboring human intestinal microbiota as a model for studying cholesterol-to-coprostanol conversion.

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Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Jouy-en-Josas, France.


The efficiency of microbial reduction of cholesterol to coprostanol in human gut is highly variable among population and mechanisms remain unexplored. In the present study, we investigated whether microbial communities and their cholesterol metabolism characteristics can be transferred to germ-free rats. Two groups of six, initially germ-free rats were associated with two different human microbiota, exhibiting high and low cholesterol-reducing activities. Four months after inoculation, enumeration of coprostanoligenic bacteria, fecal coprostanol levels and composition of the fecal microbial communities were studied in gnotobiotic rats and compared with those of the human donors. Combination of culture (most probable number enumeration of active bacteria) and biochemical approaches (extraction followed by gas chromatography of sterols) showed that gnotobiotic rats harbored a coprostanoligenic bacterial population level and exhibited coprostanoligenic activities similar to those of the corresponding human donor. On the other hand, molecular approaches (whole-cell hybridization with fluorescently labeled 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes, and temporal temperature gradient gel electrophoresis of bacterial 16S rRNA gene amplicons) demonstrated that gnotobiotic rats reproduced a stable microbial community, close to the human donor microbiota at the group or genus levels but different at the dominant species level. These results suggest that the gnotobiotic rat model can be used to explore the still unknown human intestinal microbiota involved in luminal cholesterol metabolism, including regulation of expression of its activity and impact on health.

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