Fecal Viral Community Responses to High-Fat Diet in Mice

mSphere. 2020 Feb 26;5(1):e00833-19. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00833-19.


Alterations in diet can have significant impact on the host, with high-fat diet (HFD) leading to obesity, diabetes, and inflammation of the gut. Although membership and abundances in gut bacterial communities are strongly influenced by diet, substantially less is known about how viral communities respond to dietary changes. Examining fecal contents of mice as the mice were transitioned from normal chow to HFD, we found significant changes in the relative abundances and the diversity in the gut of bacteria and their viruses. Alpha diversity of the bacterial community was significantly diminished in response to the diet change but did not change significantly in the viral community. However, the diet shift significantly impacted the beta diversity in both the bacterial and viral communities. There was a significant shift away from the relatively abundant Siphoviridae accompanied by increases in bacteriophages from the Microviridae family. The proportion of identified bacteriophage structural genes significantly decreased after the transition to HFD, with a conserved loss of integrase genes in all four experimental groups. In total, this study provides evidence for substantial changes in the intestinal virome disproportionate to bacterial changes, and with alterations in putative viral lifestyles related to chromosomal integration as a result of shift to HFD.IMPORTANCE Prior studies have shown that high-fat diet (HFD) can have profound effects on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract microbiome and also demonstrate that bacteria in the GI tract can affect metabolism and lean/obese phenotypes. We investigated whether the composition of viral communities that also inhabit the GI tract are affected by shifts from normal to HFD. We found significant and reproducible shifts in the content of GI tract viromes after the transition to HFD. The differences observed in virome community membership and their associated gene content suggest that these altered viral communities are populated by viruses that are more virulent toward their host bacteria. Because HFD also are associated with significant shifts in GI tract bacterial communities, we believe that the shifts in the viral community may serve to drive the changes that occur in associated bacterial communities.

Keywords: 16S rRNA; antibiotic perturbations; antibiotics; gut; high-fat diet; metabolism; microbiome; virome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Diet, High-Fat*
  • Feces / virology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Intestines / virology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Viruses / classification*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S