Composition and function of the undernourished neonatal mouse intestinal microbiome

J Nutr Biochem. 2015 Oct;26(10):1050-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2015.04.010. Epub 2015 May 15.


Undernutrition remains one of the key global health challenges facing children today. Distinct microbial profiles have been associated with obesity and undernutrition, although mechanisms behind these associations are unknown. We sought to understand how protein-energy undernutrition alters the microbiome and to propose mechanisms by which these alterations influence the malnourished phenotype. Outbred CD1 neonatal mice were undernourished by timed separation from lactating dams, while control animals nursed ad libitum. 16S rRNA gene sequencing and compositional analysis identified microbes from luminal contents of ileum, cecum and colon, while whole metagenome shotgun sequencing identified microbial gene content. Our results suggest that the most important determinant of microbiome composition is body compartment; communities derived from ileum are distinct from those from cecum and colon as observed by phylogenetic clustering analysis. However, within each compartment, microbiota from undernourished and control mice cluster separately. At the phylum level, undernourished mice harbor more Verrucomicrobia and less Bacteroidetes in the distal intestine; these changes are driven by an increase in Akkermansia muciniphila and decreases in Bacteroides and Alistipes. Undernourished mice have an overall loss of microbial community richness and diversity and are deficient in multiple microbial genetic pathways including N-glycan, inositol phosphate and one-carbon metabolism. Losses in these microbial genes may confer less efficient extraction of energy from nondigestible dietary components including glycans and phytates, whereas epigenetic alterations provide a means of persistently altering metabolism even after adequate nutrition is restored. Thus, the microbiome of an undernourished host may perpetuate states of poor nutrition via multiple mechanisms.

Keywords: Energy metabolism; Intestinal microbiome; Metagenomics; Neonatal mice; Protein–energy undernutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / microbiology*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Malnutrition / microbiology*
  • Mice
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / microbiology
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S