The structure and function of cecal microbiota following the consumption of a zinc (Zn) biofortified wheat diet was evaluated in a well-studied animal model of human nutrition ( Gallus gallus) during a six-week efficacy trial. Using 16S rRNA gene sequencing, a significant increase in β- but not α-microbial diversity was observed in the animals receiving the Zn biofortified wheat diet, relative to the control. No significant taxonomic differences were found between the two groups. Linear discriminant analysis revealed a group of metagenomic biomarkers that delineated the Zn replete versus Zn deficient phenotypes, such that enrichment of lactic acid bacteria and concomitant increases in Zn-dependent bacterial metabolic pathways were observed in the Zn biofortified group, and expansion of mucin-degraders and specific bacterial groups able to participate in maintaining host Zn homeostasis were observed in the control group. Additionally, the Ruminococcus genus appeared to be a key player in delineating the Zn replete microbiota from the control group, as it strongly predicts host Zn adequacy. Our data demonstrate that the gut microbiome associated with Zn biofortified wheat ingestion is unique and may influence host Zn status. Microbiota analysis in biofortification trials represents a crucial area for study as Zn biofortified diets are increasingly delivered on a population-wide scale.
Keywords: Gallus gallus; gut microbiome; microbiota; wheat biofortification; zinc biofortification; zinc deficiency.