Sex differences associate with late microbiome alterations after murine surgical sepsis

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2022 Aug 1;93(2):137-146. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000003599. Epub 2022 Mar 24.


Background: Sepsis-induced gut microbiome alterations contribute to sepsis-related morbidity and mortality. Given evidence for improved postsepsis outcomes in females compared with males, we hypothesized that female mice maintain microbiota resilience versus males.

Methods: Mixed-sex C57BL/6 mice underwent cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) with antibiotics, saline resuscitation, and daily chronic stress and were compared with naive (nonsepsis/no antibiotics) controls. For this work, the results of young (3-5 months) and old (18-22 months) adult mice were analyzed by sex, independent and dependent of age. Mice were sacrificed at days 7 and 14, and 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed on fecal bacterial DNA. α and β diversity were determined by Shannon index and Bray-Curtis with principal coordinate analysis, respectively. False discovery rate (FDR) correction was implemented to account for potential housing effect.

Results: In control mice, there was no difference in α or β diversity between male and female mice (FDR, 0.76 and 0.99, respectively). However, male mice that underwent CLP with daily chronic stress had a decrease in microbiota α diversity at 7 days post-CLP (Shannon FDR, 0.005), which was sustained at 14 days post-CLP (Shannon FDR, 0.001), compared with baseline. In addition, male mice maintained differences in β diversity even at day 14 compared with controls (FDR, <0.0001). In contrast, female mice had a decreased microbiota α diversity (Shannon FDR, 0.03) and β diversity (FDR, 0.02) 7 days post-CLP but recovered their α and β diversity by post-CLP day 14 (Shannon FDR, 0.5, and FDR, 0.02, respectively). Further analysis of females revealed that only young female mice were not different (β diversity) post-CLP day 14 to controls.

Conclusion: Although sepsis-induced perturbations of the intestinal microbiota occur initially in both male and female C57BL/6 mice, females demonstrate different microbiota by day 14. This may be seen primarily in younger females. This difference in recovery may play a role in outcome differences between sexes after sepsis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microbiota*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sepsis* / genetics
  • Sex Characteristics


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S