Metabolic model predictions enable targeted microbiome manipulation through precision prebiotics

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Feb 18:2023.02.17.528811. doi: 10.1101/2023.02.17.528811.


The microbiome is increasingly receiving attention as an important modulator of host health and disease. However, while numerous mechanisms through which the microbiome influences its host have been identified, there is still a lack of approaches that allow to specifically modulate the abundance of individual microbes or microbial functions of interest. Moreover, current approaches for microbiome manipulation such as fecal transfers often entail a non-specific transfer of entire microbial communities with potentially unwanted side effects. To overcome this limitation, we here propose the concept of precision prebiotics that specifically modulate the abundance of a microbiome member species of interest. In a first step, we show that defining precision prebiotics by compounds that are only taken up by the target species but no other species in a community is usually not possible due to overlapping metabolic niches. Subsequently, we present a metabolic modeling network framework that allows us to define precision prebiotics for a two-member C. elegans microbiome model community comprising the immune-protective Pseudomonas lurida MYb11 and the persistent colonizer Ochrobactrum vermis MYb71. Thus, we predicted compounds that specifically boost the abundance of the host-beneficial MYb11, four of which were experimentally validated in vitro (L-serine, L-threonine, D-mannitol, and γ-aminobutyric acid). L-serine was further assessed in vivo, leading to an increase in MYb11 abundance also in the worm host. Overall, our findings demonstrate that constraint-based metabolic modeling is an effective tool for the design of precision prebiotics as an important cornerstone for future microbiome-targeted therapies.

Keywords: Caenorhabditis elegans; Ochrobactrum vermis MYb71; Pseudomonas lurida MYb11; flux balance analysis; genome-scale metabolic models; nutritional supplements; serine.

Publication types

  • Preprint