Fecal microbiota in the female prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster)

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We examined the fecal microbiota of female prairie voles. This species is socially and, likely, sexually monogamous, and thus serves as a valuable model in which to examine the interaction between the microbiota-gut-brain axis and social behavior. At present, little is known about the gastrointestinal microbiota of prairie voles; therefore, we performed a first characterization of the fecal microbiota using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Semiconductor sequencing technology on an Ion Torrent PGM platform was used to assess the composition of fecal microbiotas from twelve female prairie voles. Following quality filtering, 1,017,756 sequencing reads were classified from phylum to genus level. At the phylum level, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Saccharibacteria were the predominant taxa, while the Bacteriodales, Erysipelotrichaceae, Ruminococcaceae, and Lachnospiraceae contributed the most dominant microbial groups and genera. Microbial community membership was most similar between vole sibling pairs, but consideration of taxon abundances weakened these associations. The interdependence of host factors such as genetics and behavior with the gastrointestinal microbiota is likely to be particularly pronounced in prairie voles. Our pilot characterization of the prairie vole intestinal microbiota revealed a microbial community composition remarkably consistent with the monogastric alimentary system of these rodents and their diet rich in complex plant carbohydrates. The highly social nature of these animals poses specific challenges to microbiome analyses that nonetheless are valuable for advancing research on the microbiota-gut-brain-behavior axis. Our study provides an important basis for future microbiome research in this emerging model organism for studying social behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0190648
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


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