Gut microbiota composition in male rat models under different nutritional status and physical activity and its association with serum leptin and ghrelin levels

PLoS One. 2013 May 28;8(5):e65465. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065465. Print 2013.


Background: Several evidences indicate that gut microbiota is involved in the control of host energy metabolism.

Objective: To evaluate the differences in the composition of gut microbiota in rat models under different nutritional status and physical activity and to identify their associations with serum leptin and ghrelin levels.

Methods: In a case control study, forty male rats were randomly assigned to one of these four experimental groups: ABA group with food restriction and free access to exercise; control ABA group with food restriction and no access to exercise; exercise group with free access to exercise and feed ad libitum and ad libitum group without access to exercise and feed ad libitum. The fecal bacteria composition was investigated by PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and real-time qPCR.

Results: In restricted eaters, we have found a significant increase in the number of Proteobacteria, Bacteroides, Clostridium, Enterococcus, Prevotella and M. smithii and a significant decrease in the quantities of Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, B. coccoides-E. rectale group, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium with respect to unrestricted eaters. Moreover, a significant increase in the number of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and B. coccoides-E. rectale group was observed in exercise group with respect to the rest of groups. We also found a significant positive correlation between the quantity of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus and serum leptin levels, and a significant and negative correlation among the number of Clostridium, Bacteroides and Prevotella and serum leptin levels in all experimental groups. Furthermore, serum ghrelin levels were negatively correlated with the quantity of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and B. coccoides-Eubacterium rectale group and positively correlated with the number of Bacteroides and Prevotella.

Conclusions: Nutritional status and physical activity alter gut microbiota composition affecting the diversity and similarity. This study highlights the associations between gut microbiota and appetite-regulating hormones that may be important in terms of satiety and host metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anorexia / blood
  • Anorexia / physiopathology
  • Appetite
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Body Weight
  • Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis
  • Diet
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Ghrelin / blood*
  • Leptin / blood*
  • Male
  • Microbiota / genetics
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Models, Animal
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Phylogeny
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Ghrelin
  • Leptin

Grant support

This work was supported in part by a grant from CIBER (Centro de Investigación en Red) CB06/03/0018 of the "Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII)", the Instituto de Salud Carlos III CP07/0095 Madrid (Spain), the Servicio Andaluz de Salud (PI0696/2010) and Fondo de Investigacion Sanitaria (FIS) PI12/02355 from the Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII), Madrid (Spain). The post-doctoral grant “Sara Borrell” (CD11/0030) from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MM) and the Miguel Servet Fellow from the Instituto de Salud Carlos III/SERGAS (MP). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.