Loss of NHE3 alters gut microbiota composition and influences Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron growth

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2013 Nov 15;305(10):G697-711. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00184.2013. Epub 2013 Sep 26.


Changes in the intestinal microbiota have been linked to diabetes, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and Clostridium difficile (C. difficile)-associated disease. Despite this, it remains unclear how the intestinal environment, set by ion transport, affects luminal and mucosa-associated bacterial composition. Na(+)/H(+)-exchanger isoform 3 (NHE3), a target of C. difficile toxin B, plays an integral role in intestinal Na(+) absorption. Thus the NHE3-deficient mouse model was chosen to examine the effect of pH and ion composition on bacterial growth. We hypothesized that ion transport-induced change in the intestinal environment would lead to alteration of the microbiota. Region-specific changes in ion composition and pH correlated with region-specific alteration of luminal and mucosal-associated bacteria with general decreases in Firmicutes and increases in Bacteroidetes members. Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron (B. thetaiotaomicron) increased in NHE3(-/-) terminal ileum and was examined in vitro to determine whether altered Na(+) was sufficient to affect growth. Increased in vitro growth of B. thetaiotaomicron occurred in 43 mM Na(+) correlating with the NHE3(-/-) mouse terminal ileum [Na(+)]. NHE3(-/-) terminal ileum displayed increased fut2 mRNA and fucosylation correlating with B. thetaiotaomicron growth. Inoculation of B. thetaiotaomicron in wild-type and NHE3(-/-) terminal ileum organoids displayed increased fut2 and fucosylation, indicating that B. thetaiotaomicron alone is sufficient for the increased fucosylation seen in vivo. These data demonstrate that loss of NHE3 alters the intestinal environment, leading to region-specific changes in bacteria, and shed light on the growth requirements of some gut microbiota members, which is vital for creating better treatments of complex diseases with an altered gut microbiota.

Keywords: Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron; Clostridium difficile; Na+/H+-exchanger isoform 3; fucosylation; ileum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteroides / classification*
  • Bacteroides / growth & development*
  • Culture Media
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Intestines / physiology
  • Mice
  • Sodium
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchanger 3
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers / genetics
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers / metabolism*


  • Culture Media
  • Slc9a3 protein, mouse
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchanger 3
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers
  • Sodium