Sequence-based analysis of the intestinal Microbiota of sows and their offspring fed genetically modified maize expressing a truncated form of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ab protein (Bt Maize)

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Dec;79(24):7735-44. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02937-13. Epub 2013 Oct 4.


The aim was to investigate transgenerational effects of feeding genetically modified (GM) maize expressing a truncated form of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ab protein (Bt maize) to sows and their offspring on maternal and offspring intestinal microbiota. Sows were assigned to either non-GM or GM maize dietary treatments during gestation and lactation. At weaning, offspring were assigned within sow treatment to non-GM or GM maize diets for 115 days, as follows: (i) non-GM maize-fed sow/non-GM maize-fed offspring (non-GM/non-GM), (ii) non-GM maize-fed sow/GM maize-fed offspring (non-GM/GM), (iii) GM maize-fed sow/non-GM maize-fed offspring (GM/non-GM), and (iv) GM maize-fed sow/GM maize-fed offspring (GM/GM). Offspring of GM maize-fed sows had higher counts of fecal total anaerobes and Enterobacteriaceae at days 70 and 100 postweaning, respectively. At day 115 postweaning, GM/non-GM offspring had lower ileal Enterobacteriaceae counts than non-GM/non-GM or GM/GM offspring and lower ileal total anaerobes than pigs on the other treatments. GM maize-fed offspring also had higher ileal total anaerobe counts than non-GM maize-fed offspring, and cecal total anaerobes were lower in non-GM/GM and GM/non-GM offspring than in those from the non-GM/non-GM treatment. The only differences observed for major bacterial phyla using 16S rRNA gene sequencing were that fecal Proteobacteria were less abundant in GM maize-fed sows prior to farrowing and in offspring at weaning, with fecal Firmicutes more abundant in offspring. While other differences occurred, they were not observed consistently in offspring, were mostly encountered for low-abundance, low-frequency bacterial taxa, and were not associated with pathology. Therefore, their biological relevance is questionable. This confirms the lack of adverse effects of GM maize on the intestinal microbiota of pigs, even following transgenerational consumption.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biota*
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal / chemistry
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Diet / methods*
  • Endotoxins / genetics
  • Endotoxins / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Hemolysin Proteins / genetics
  • Hemolysin Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Swine
  • Time Factors
  • Zea mays / genetics*


  • Bacillus thuringiensis Toxins
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • Endotoxins
  • Hemolysin Proteins
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • insecticidal crystal protein, Bacillus Thuringiensis