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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2015 Jan;81(1):396-404. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02303-14. Epub 2014 Oct 31.

Intra- and interindividual variations mask interspecies variation in the microbiota of sympatric peromyscus populations.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA


Using populations of two sympatric Peromyscus species, we characterized the importance of the host species, physiology, environment, diet, and other factors in shaping the structure and dynamics of their gut microbiota. We performed a capture-mark-release experiment in which we obtained 16S rRNA gene sequence data from 49 animals at multiple time points. In addition, we performed 18S rRNA gene sequencing of the same samples to characterize the diet of each individual. Our analysis could not distinguish between the two species of Peromyscus on the basis of the structures of their microbiotas. However, we did observe a set of bacterial populations that were found in every animal. Most notable were abundant representatives of the genera Lactobacillus and Helicobacter. When we combined the 16S and 18S rRNA gene sequence analyses, we were unable to distinguish the communities on the basis of the animal's diet. Furthermore, there were no discernible differences in the structure of the gut communities based on the capture site or their developmental or physiological status. Finally, in contrast to humans, where each individual has a unique microbiota when sampled over years, among the animals captured in this study, the uniqueness of each microbiota was lost within a week of the original sampling. Wild populations provide an opportunity to study host-microbiota interactions as they originally evolved, and the ability to perform natural experiments will facilitate a greater understanding of the factors that shape the structure and function of the gut microbiota.

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