Quantitatively different, yet qualitatively alike: a meta-analysis of the mouse core gut microbiome with a view towards the human gut microbiome

PLoS One. 2013 May 1;8(5):e62578. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062578. Print 2013.


Background: A number of human diseases such as obesity and diabetes are associated with changes or imbalances in the gut microbiota (GM). Laboratory mice are commonly used as experimental models for such disorders. The introduction and dynamic development of next generation sequencing techniques have enabled detailed mapping of the GM of both humans and animal models. Nevertheless there is still a significant knowledge gap regarding the human and mouse common GM core and thus the applicability of the latter as an animal model. The aim of the present study was to identify inter- and intra-individual differences and similarities between the GM composition of particular mouse strains and humans.

Methodology/principal findings: A total of 1509428 high quality tag-encoded partial 16S rRNA gene sequences determined using 454/FLX Titanium (Roche) pyro-sequencing reflecting the GM composition of 32 human samples from 16 individuals and 88 mouse samples from three laboratory mouse strains commonly used in diabetes research were analyzed using Principal Coordinate Analysis (PCoA), nonparametric multivariate analysis of similarity (ANOSIM) and alpha diversity measures. A reliable cutoff threshold for low abundant taxa estimated on the basis of the present study is recommended for similar trials.

Conclusions/significance: Distinctive quantitative differences in the relative abundance of most taxonomic groups between the examined categories were found. All investigated mouse strains clustered separately, but with a range of shared features when compared to the human GM. However, both mouse fecal, caecal and human fecal samples shared to a large extent not only representatives of the same phyla, but also a substantial fraction of common genera, where the number of shared genera increased with sequencing depth. In conclusion, the GM of mice and humans is quantitatively different (in terms of abundance of specific phyla and species) but share a large qualitatively similar core.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Microbiota / genetics*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Grant support

LK is supported by Center for Applied Laboratory Animal Research (www.calar.dk) and the Chemometric Analysis Centre www.chance.life.ku.dk). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.