Evidence in support of a gut-muscle axis has been reported in rodents, but studies in older adult humans are limited. Accordingly, the primary goals of the present study were to compare gut microbiome composition in older adults that differed in terms of the percentage of whole body lean mass and physical functioning (high-functioning, HF, n = 18; low-functioning, LF, n = 11), and to evaluate the causative role of the gut microbiome on these variables by transferring fecal samples from older adults into germ-free mice. Family-level Prevotellaceae, genus-level Prevotella and Barnesiella, and the bacterial species Barnesiella intestinihominis were higher in HF older adults at the initial study visit, at a 1-month follow-up visit, in HF human fecal donors, and in HF-colonized mice, when compared with their LF counterparts. Grip strength was significantly increased by 6.4% in HF-, when compared with LF-colonized mice. In contrast, despite significant differences for the percentage of whole body lean mass and physical functioning when comparing the human fecal donors, the percentage of whole body lean mass and treadmill endurance capacity were not different when comparing human microbiome-containing mice. In sum, these data suggest a role for gut bacteria on the maintenance of muscle strength, but argue against a role for gut bacteria on the maintenance of the percentage of whole body lean mass or endurance capacity, findings that collectively add to elucidation of the gut-muscle axis in older adults.
Keywords: Aging; Body composition; Microbiome; Muscle strength; Physical function; Sarcopenia.
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