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Microbiologyopen. 2019 Mar 7:e789. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.789. [Epub ahead of print]

Characterizing the microbiota in gastrointestinal tract segments of Rhabdophis subminiatus: Dynamic changes and functional predictions.

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College of Life Science, Sichuan Agricultural University, Ya'an, China.
Farm Animal Genetic Resources Exploration and Innovation Key Laboratory of Sichuan Province, Sichuan Agricultural University, Chengdu, China.


The gut microbiota helps the host to absorb nutrients and generate immune responses that can affect host behavior, development, reproduction, and overall health. However, in most of the previous studies, microbiota was sampled mainly using feces and intestinal contents from mammals but not from wild reptiles. Here, we described the bacterial profile from five different gastrointestinal tract (GIT) segments (esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and cloaca) of three wild Rhabdophis subminiatus using 16S rRNA V4 hypervariable amplicon sequencing. Forty-seven bacterial phyla were found in the entire GIT, of which Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Bacteroidetes were predominant. The results showed a significant difference in microbial diversity between the upper GIT segments (esophagus and stomach) and lower GIT segments (large intestine and cloaca). An obvious dynamic distribution of Fusobacteria and Bacteroidetes was observed, which mainly existed in the lower GIT segments. Conversely, the distribution of Tenericutes was mainly observed in the upper GIT. We also predicted the microbial functions in the different GIT segments, which showed that microbiota in each segments played an important role in higher membrane transport and carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism. Microbes in the small intestine were also mainly involved in disease-related systems, while in the large intestine, they were associated with membrane transport and carbohydrate metabolism. This is the first study to investigate the distribution of the gut microbiota and to predict the microbial function in R. subminiatus. The composition of the gut microbiota certainly reflects the diet and the living environment of the host. Furthermore, these findings provide vital evidence for the diagnosis and treatment of gut diseases in snakes and offer a direction for a model of energy budget research.


Rhabdophis subminiatus ; Proteobacteria; diets; gut microbiota; microbial function

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