Structural and functional alterations of gut microbiome in mice induced by chronic cadmium exposure

Chemosphere. 2020 May;246:125747. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2019.125747. Epub 2019 Dec 24.


Mammalian gut microbiome is readily affected by acute or subchronic cadmium (Cd) intoxication, but it susceptibility following chronic Cd exposure at environmentally-relevant levels remains unknown. This study comprehensively assessed the effects of Cd exposure at doses of 10 and 50 ppm in drinking water for 20 weeks on gut microbiome in mice. Results showed that the Cd exposure induced alterations in gut morphology with potentially increased gut permeability and inflammation. These changes were accompanied by marked perturbation of gut microbiota characterized by significantly decreased gut microbial richness and lowered abundance of short chain fatty acid (SCFA)-producing bacteria, resulting in reduced SCFAs production in the gut. Moreover, the Cd exposure caused substantial metabolic functional changes of the gut microbiome, with significant inhibitions on gene pathways associated with metabolism of amino acid, carbohydrate, and energy, as well as promotions on metabolic pathways such as glutathione metabolism and aminobenzoate degradation. Our findings provide new insights into the hazards assessment of environmental Cd exposure towards gut microbiome.

Keywords: Cadmium; Gut microbiome; Gut permeability; Metabolic function; Short chain fatty acid.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Hazardous Substances / toxicity*
  • Inflammation
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Toxicity Tests, Chronic


  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Hazardous Substances
  • Cadmium