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Comparative Study
, 14 (12), e0226240
eCollection

Characteristics of the Gut Microbiota in Professional Martial Arts Athletes: A Comparison Between Different Competition Levels

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Comparative Study

Characteristics of the Gut Microbiota in Professional Martial Arts Athletes: A Comparison Between Different Competition Levels

Ru Liang et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

Recent evidence suggests that athletes have microbial features distinct from those of sedentary individuals. However, the characteristics of the gut microbiota in athletes competing at different levels have not been assessed. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the gut microbiome is significantly different between higher-level and lower-level athletes. Faecal microbiota communities were analysed with hypervariable tag sequencing of the V3-V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene among 28 professional martial arts athletes, including 12 higher-level and 16 lower-level athletes. The gut microbial richness and diversity (the Shannon diversity index (p = 0.019) and Simpson diversity index (p = 0.001)) were significantly higher in the higher-level athletes than in the lower-level athletes. Moreover, the genera Parabacteroides, Phascolarctobacterium, Oscillibacter and Bilophila were enriched in the higher-level athletes, whereas Megasphaera was abundant in the lower-level athletes. Interestingly, the abundance of the genus Parabacteroides was positively correlated with the amount of time participants exercised during an average week. Further analysis of the functional prediction revealed that histidine metabolism and carbohydrate metabolism pathways were markedly over-represented in the gut microbiota of the higher-level athletes. Collectively, this study provides the first insight into the gut microbiota characteristics of professional martial arts athletes. The higher-level athletes had increased diversity and higher metabolic capacity of the gut microbiome for it may positively influence athletic performance.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Figures

Fig 1
Fig 1. The α-diversity indexes of the faecal microbiota in the samples of the higher-level athletes (H) and lower-level athletes (L).
(A) Observed operational taxonomic units (OTUs) (180.8±58.31 vs. 164.4±41.93, p = 0.562) between the H group and the L group. (B) Shannon diversity index (4.797±0.722 vs. 4.148±0.543, p = 0.019) between the H group and the L group. (C) Simpson diversity index (0.915±0.044 vs. 0.856±0.066, p = 0.001) between the H group and the L group.
Fig 2
Fig 2. The β-diversity indexes of the faecal microbiota in the samples of the higher-level athletes (H) and lower-level athletes (L).
(A) A Venn analysis of bacterial OTUs. (B) PCOA based on the distance matrix of weighted UniFrac dissimilarity of the faecal microbial communities in the H and L groups. The axes represent the two dimensions explaining the greatest proportion of variance in the communities. Each symbol represents a sample: H group (blue) and L group (red). (C) The differences between and within the H and L groups were assessed using one-way ANOSIM. Box plots from the left to the right represent the weighted UniFrac distance between the samples of the H group and the L group, the weighted UniFrac distance of the samples in the H group and the weighted UniFrac distance of the samples in the L group. R values and p values show the community variation between the compared groups. (D) A heatmap with weighted UniFrac phylogenetic distances based on phylotype among samples. The clustering at the top of the figure represents the hierarchical clustering based on the distance between samples. The colour of the grid represents the distance between samples, and the colour corresponds to the icon. The colour from blue to red indicates that the distance between samples increases gradually.
Fig 3
Fig 3. Taxonomic differences in the gut microbiota between the higher-level (H) and lower-level (L) groups.
(A) In the cladogram, circles radiating from the inner side to the outer side represent the taxonomic level from family to genus. Blue nodes refer to the dominant bacteria in the higher-level athletes, and the red nodes refer to the bacteria dominant in the lower-level athletes; g, genus; f, family. (B) The histogram of the LDA scores represents the taxa whose abundance showed significant differences between the higher-level and lower-level athletes. The length of each bin, namely, the LDA score, represents the effect size. LDA, linear discriminant analysis; (C) The correlation between the exercise loads per week and the abundance of Parabacteroides in the athletes.
Fig 4
Fig 4. Functional predictions for the faecal microbiome of the higher-level (H) and the lower-level (L) groups.
(A) A comparison of the enriched markers on level 2 of the KEGG functional category between the higher-level and lower-level athletes. (B) A comparison of the enriched markers on level 3 of the KEGG functional category between the higher-level and lower-level athletes. LDA, linear discriminant analysis.

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Grant support

This study was funded by the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (grant number 2018M633096), the Project of Guangdong Medical Science and Technology Research Foundation (grant number A2018102) and SZSM201612071. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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