Patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) harbour intestinal bacterial communities with altered composition compared with healthy counterparts; however, it is unknown whether changes in the microbiota are associated with genetic susceptibility of individuals for developing disease or instead reflect other changes in the intestinal environment related to the disease itself. Since deficiencies in the innate immune receptors Nod1 and Nod2 are linked to IBD, we tested the hypothesis that Nod-signaling alters intestinal immune profiles and subsequently alters bacterial community structure. We used qPCR to analyze expression patterns of selected immune mediators in the ileum and cecum of Nod-deficient mice compared with their Nod-sufficient littermates and assessed the relative abundance of major bacterial groups sampled from the ileum, cecum and colon. The Nod1-deficient ileum exhibited significantly lower expression of Nod2, Muc2, α- and β-defensins and keratinocyte-derived chemokine (KC), suggesting a weakened epithelial barrier compared with WT littermates; however, there were no significant differences in the relative abundance of targeted bacterial groups, indicating that Nod1-associated immune differences alone do not promote dysbiosis. Furthermore, Nod2-deficient mice did not display any changes in the expression of immune markers or bacterial communities. Shifts in bacterial communities that were observed in this study correlated with housing conditions and were independent of genotype. These findings emphasize the importance of using F2 littermate controls to minimize environmental sources of variation in microbial analyses, to establish baseline conditions for host-microbe homeostasis in Nod-deficient mice and to strengthen models for testing factors contributing to microbial dysbiosis associated with IBD.
Keywords: Nod-like receptors; gut bacterial communities; homeostasis; inflammation; intestinal environment.