Background: Composition of the vaginal microbiota has significant influence on female urogenital health and control of infectious disease. Murine models are widely utilized to characterize host-pathogen interactions within the vaginal tract, however, the composition of endogenous vaginal flora remains largely undefined with modern microbiome analyses. Here, we employ 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing to establish the native microbial composition of the vaginal tract in adult C57Bl/6 J mice. We further interrogate the impact of estrous cycle and introduction of the human vaginal pathobiont, group B Streptococcus (GBS) on community state type and stability, and conversely, the impact of the vaginal microbiota on GBS persistence.
Results: Sequencing analysis revealed five distinctive community states of the vaginal microbiota dominated largely by Staphylococcus and/or Enterococcus, Lactobacillus, or a mixed population. Stage of estrus did not impact microbial composition. Introduction of GBS decreased community stability at early timepoints; and in some mice, GBS became the dominant bacterium by day 21. Endogenous Staphylococcus abundance correlated with GBS ascension into the uterus, and increased community stability in GBS-challenged mice.
Conclusions: The murine vaginal flora is diverse and fluctuates independently of the estrous cycle. Endogenous flora may impact pathogen colonization and dissemination and should be considered in urogenital infection models.
Keywords: 16S rRNA sequencing; Estrous cycle; Group B Streptococcus; Murine model; Vaginal microbiome.