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PLoS One. 2010 Aug 27;5(8):e12459. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012459.

Gut microbial gene expression in mother-fed and formula-fed piglets.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America.



Effects of diet on the structure and function of gut microbial communities in newborn infants are poorly understood. High-resolution molecular studies are needed to definitively ascertain whether gut microbial communities are distinct in milk-fed and formula-fed infants.


Pyrosequencing-based whole transcriptome shotgun sequencing (RNA-seq) was used to evaluate community wide gut microbial gene expression in 21 day old neonatal piglets fed either with sow's milk (mother fed, MF; n = 4) or with artificial formula (formula fed, FF; n = 4). Microbial DNA and RNA were harvested from cecal contents for each animal. cDNA libraries and 16S rDNA amplicons were sequenced on the Roche 454 GS-FLX Titanium system. Communities were similar at the level of phylum but were dissimilar at the level of genus; Prevotella was the dominant genus within MF samples and Bacteroides was most abundant within FF samples. Screened cDNA sequences were assigned functional annotations by the MG-RAST annotation pipeline and based upon best-BLASTX-hits to the NCBI COG database. Patterns of gene expression were very similar in MF and FF animals. All samples were enriched with transcripts encoding enzymes for carbohydrate and protein metabolism, as well as proteins involved in stress response, binding to host epithelium, and lipopolysaccharide metabolism. Carbohydrate utilization transcripts were generally similar in both groups. The abundance of enzymes involved in several pathways related to amino acid metabolism (e.g., arginine metabolism) and oxidative stress response differed in MF and FF animals.


Abundant transcripts identified in this study likely contribute to a core microbial metatranscriptome in the distal intestine. Although microbial community gene expression was generally similar in the cecal contents of MF and FF neonatal piglets, several differentially abundant gene clusters were identified. Further investigations of gut microbial gene expression will contribute to a better understanding of normal and abnormal enteric microbiology in animals and humans.

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