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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 Apr;80(7):2240-7. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03799-13. Epub 2014 Jan 31.

RNA-stable-isotope probing shows utilization of carbon from inulin by specific bacterial populations in the rat large bowel.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


Knowledge of the trophisms that underpin bowel microbiota composition is required in order to understand its complex phylogeny and function. Stable-isotope ((13)C)-labeled inulin was added to the diet of rats on a single occasion in order to detect utilization of inulin-derived substrates by particular members of the cecal microbiota. Cecal digesta from Fibruline-inulin-fed rats was collected prior to (0 h) and at 6, 12, 18 and 24 h following provision of the [(13)C]inulin diet. RNA was extracted from these cecal specimens and fractionated in isopycnic buoyant density gradients in order to detect (13)C-labeled nucleic acid originating in bacterial cells that had metabolized the labeled dietary constituent. RNA extracted from specimens collected after provision of the labeled diet was more dense than 0-h RNA. Sequencing of 16S rRNA genes amplified from cDNA obtained from these fractions showed that Bacteroides uniformis, Blautia glucerasea, Clostridium indolis, and Bifidobacterium animalis were the main users of the (13)C-labeled substrate. Culture-based studies of strains of these bacterial species enabled trophisms associated with inulin and its hydrolysis products to be identified. B. uniformis utilized Fibruline-inulin for growth, whereas the other species used fructo-oligosaccharide and monosaccharides. Thus, RNA-stable-isotope probing (RNA-SIP) provided new information about the use of carbon from inulin in microbiota metabolism.

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