Host genetic and environmental effects on mouse intestinal microbiota

ISME J. 2012 Nov;6(11):2033-44. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2012.54. Epub 2012 Jun 14.


The mammalian gut harbors complex and variable microbial communities, across both host phylogenetic space and conspecific individuals. A synergy of host genetic and environmental factors shape these communities and account for their variability, but their individual contributions and the selective pressures involved are still not well understood. We employed barcoded pyrosequencing of V1-2 and V4 regions of bacterial small subunit ribosomal RNA genes to characterize the effects of host genetics and environment on cecum assemblages in 10 genetically distinct, inbred mouse strains. Eight of these strains are the foundation of the Collaborative Cross (CC), a panel of mice derived from a genetically diverse set of inbred founder strains, designed specifically for complex trait analysis. Diversity of gut microbiota was characterized by complementing phylogenetic and distance-based, sequence-clustering approaches. Significant correlations were found between the mouse strains and their gut microbiota, reflected by distinct bacterial communities. Cohabitation and litter had a reduced, although detectable effect, and the microbiota response to these factors varied by strain. We identified bacterial phylotypes that appear to be discriminative and strain-specific to each mouse line used. Cohabitation of different strains of mice revealed an interaction of host genetic and environmental factors in shaping gut bacterial consortia, in which bacterial communities became more similar but retained strain specificity. This study provides a baseline analysis of intestinal bacterial communities in the eight CC progenitor strains and will be linked to integrated host genotype, phenotype and microbiota research on the resulting CC panel.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Metagenome*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Phylogeny