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Environ Microbiol. 2017 Apr;19(4):1366-1378. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13659. Epub 2017 Feb 3.

Microbial nutrient niches in the gut.

Author information

1
Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science, Division of Microbial Ecology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, Vienna, 1090, Austria.

Abstract

The composition and function of the mammalian gut microbiota has been the subject of much research in recent years, but the principles underlying the assembly and structure of this complex community remain incompletely understood. Processes that shape the gut microbiota are thought to be mostly niche-driven, with environmental factors such as the composition of available nutrients largely determining whether or not an organism can establish. The concept that the nutrient landscape dictates which organisms can successfully colonize and persist in the gut was first proposed in Rolf Freter's nutrient niche theory. In a situation where nutrients are perfectly mixed and there is balanced microbial growth, Freter postulated that an organism can only survive if it is able to utilize one or a few limiting nutrients more efficiently than its competitors. Recent experimental work indicates, however, that nutrients in the gut vary in space and time. We propose that in such a scenario, Freter's nutrient niche theory must be expanded to account for the co-existence of microorganisms utilizing the same nutrients but in distinct sites or at different times, and that metabolic flexibility and mixed-substrate utilization are common strategies for survival in the face of ever-present nutrient fluctuations.

PMID:
28035742
PMCID:
PMC5412925
DOI:
10.1111/1462-2920.13659
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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