How informative is the mouse for human gut microbiota research?

Dis Model Mech. 2015 Jan;8(1):1-16. doi: 10.1242/dmm.017400.


The microbiota of the human gut is gaining broad attention owing to its association with a wide range of diseases, ranging from metabolic disorders (e.g. obesity and type 2 diabetes) to autoimmune diseases (such as inflammatory bowel disease and type 1 diabetes), cancer and even neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. autism). Having been increasingly used in biomedical research, mice have become the model of choice for most studies in this emerging field. Mouse models allow perturbations in gut microbiota to be studied in a controlled experimental setup, and thus help in assessing causality of the complex host-microbiota interactions and in developing mechanistic hypotheses. However, pitfalls should be considered when translating gut microbiome research results from mouse models to humans. In this Special Article, we discuss the intrinsic similarities and differences that exist between the two systems, and compare the human and murine core gut microbiota based on a meta-analysis of currently available datasets. Finally, we discuss the external factors that influence the capability of mouse models to recapitulate the gut microbiota shifts associated with human diseases, and investigate which alternative model systems exist for gut microbiota research.

Keywords: Gut microbiota; Humanized mouse models; Mouse core gut microbiota; Mouse models; Mouse pan-gut microbiota.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colitis / pathology
  • Databases, Factual
  • Diet
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / pathology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Mice
  • Microbiota*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Translational Research, Biomedical