Exposure to atmospheric pollutants is associated with alterations of gut microbiota in spontaneously hypertensive rats

Exp Ther Med. 2019 Nov;18(5):3484-3492. doi: 10.3892/etm.2019.7934. Epub 2019 Aug 23.


Atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter <2.5 µm (PM2.5) and pollution are worldwide environmental problems and may have negative effects on cardiovascular disease through the lung and gut. The dynamics of intestinal microflora in response to particulate pollutants is unclear. The present study investigated changes in the gut microbiota related to pollutant exposure using spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). DNA was extracted from fecal samples. Amplicon Generation and the quality control of PCR products were performed. PCR products was sequenced on an Illumina HiSeq 2500 platform. Data analysis included: operational taxonomic unit (OTU) clustering and species annotation, alpha diversity, beta diversity, principal coordinates analysis (PCoA), and the use of PICRUSt bioinformatics software. The microbial diversity of the SHR rats was inversely associated with exposure to pollutants. In terms of relative abundance, 24 bacterial genera and 2 genera in particular (Actinobacillus and Fusobacterium) significantly declined, and one genus (Treponema) increased. Moreover, pollutant exposure was associated with the accumulation of genes from the gut microbiota that are implicated in cardiovascular diseases. From the long-term exposure experiment, rats appeared to respond to pollutant injury. In conclusion, these results suggest that the effects of atmospheric pollutants on organisms are not limited to the respiratory tract, but also include the gastrointestinal tract. Pollutants are likely to influence the intestinal microbiota and promote the progression of cardiovascular disease.

Keywords: PICRUSt; cardiovascular diseases; gut microbiota; pollutant exposure.