Heterogeneity of the gut microbiome in mice: guidelines for optimizing experimental design

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2016 Jan;40(1):117-32. doi: 10.1093/femsre/fuv036. Epub 2015 Aug 30.


Targeted manipulation of the gut flora is increasingly being recognized as a means to improve human health. Yet, the temporal dynamics and intra- and interindividual heterogeneity of the microbiome represent experimental limitations, especially in human cross-sectional studies. Therefore, rodent models represent an invaluable tool to study the host-microbiota interface. Progress in technical and computational tools to investigate the composition and function of the microbiome has opened a new era of research and we gradually begin to understand the parameters that influence variation of host-associated microbial communities. To isolate true effects from confounding factors, it is essential to include such parameters in model intervention studies. Also, explicit journal instructions to include essential information on animal experiments are mandatory. The purpose of this review is to summarize the factors that influence microbiota composition in mice and to provide guidelines to improve the reproducibility of animal experiments.

Keywords: animal facility; animal models; confounding factors; microbiome; microbiota.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal
  • Research Design / standards*