The strength of gut microbiota transfer along social networks and genealogical lineages in the house mouse

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2024 May 14;100(6):fiae075. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiae075.


The gut microbiota of vertebrates is acquired from the environment and other individuals, including parents and unrelated conspecifics. In the laboratory mouse, a key animal model, inter-individual interactions are severely limited and its gut microbiota is abnormal. Surprisingly, our understanding of how inter-individual transmission impacts house mouse gut microbiota is solely derived from laboratory experiments. We investigated the effects of inter-individual transmission on gut microbiota in two subspecies of house mice (Mus musculus musculus and M. m. domesticus) raised in a semi-natural environment without social or mating restrictions. We assessed the correlation between microbiota composition (16S rRNA profiles), social contact intensity (microtransponder-based social networks), and mouse relatedness (microsatellite-based pedigrees). Inter-individual transmission had a greater impact on the lower gut (colon and cecum) than on the small intestine (ileum). In the lower gut, relatedness and social contact independently influenced microbiota similarity. Despite female-biased parental care, both parents exerted a similar influence on their offspring's microbiota, diminishing with the offspring's age in adulthood. Inter-individual transmission was more pronounced in M. m. domesticus, a subspecies, with a social and reproductive network divided into more closed modules. This suggests that the transmission magnitude depends on the social and genetic structure of the studied population.

Keywords: gastrointestinal tract; inter-individual transmission; microbiome; relatedness; social contact.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S* / genetics


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S