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PLoS One. 2015 May 18;10(5):e0126931. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126931. eCollection 2015.

Changes in gut microbiota in rats fed a high fat diet correlate with obesity-associated metabolic parameters.

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School of Medical Sciences, UNSW Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


The gut microbiota is emerging as a new factor in the development of obesity. Many studies have described changes in microbiota composition in response to obesity and high fat diet (HFD) at the phylum level. In this study we used 16s RNA high throughput sequencing on faecal samples from rats chronically fed HFD or control chow (n = 10 per group, 16 weeks) to investigate changes in gut microbiota composition at the species level. 53.17% dissimilarity between groups was observed at the species level. Lactobacillus intestinalis dominated the microbiota in rats under the chow diet. However this species was considerably less abundant in rats fed HFD (P<0.0001), this being compensated by an increase in abundance of propionate/acetate producing species. To further understand the influence of these species on the development of the obese phenotype, we correlated their abundance with metabolic parameters associated with obesity. Of the taxa contributing the most to dissimilarity between groups, 10 presented significant correlations with at least one of the tested parameters, three of them correlated positively with all metabolic parameters: Phascolarctobacterium, Proteus mirabilis and Veillonellaceae, all propionate/acetate producers. Lactobacillus intestinalis was the only species whose abundance was negatively correlated with change in body weight and fat mass. This species decreased drastically in response to HFD, favouring propionate/acetate producing bacterial species whose abundance was strongly correlated with adiposity and deterioration of metabolic factors. Our observations suggest that these species may play a key role in the development of obesity in response to a HFD.

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