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Gnotobiotic mice housing conditions critically influence the phenotype associated with transfer of faecal microbiota in a context of obesity


Objective Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) in germ-free (GF) mice is a common approach to study the causal role of the gut microbiota in metabolic diseases. Lack of consideration of housing conditions post-FMT may contribute to study heterogeneity. We compared the impact of two housing strategies on the metabolic outcomes of GF mice colonised by gut microbiota from mice treated with a known gut modulator (cranberry proanthocyanidins (PAC)) or vehicle.

Design High-fat high-sucrose diet-fed GF mice underwent FMT-PAC colonisation in sterile individual positive flow ventilated cages under rigorous housing conditions and then maintained for 8 weeks either in the gnotobiotic-axenic sector or in the specific pathogen free (SPF) sector of the same animal facility.

Results Unexpectedly, 8 weeks after colonisation, we observed opposing liver phenotypes dependent on the housing environment of mice. Mice housed in the GF sector receiving the PAC gut microbiota showed a significant decrease in liver weight and hepatic triglyceride accumulation compared with control group. Conversely, exacerbated liver steatosis was observed in the FMT-PAC mice housed in the SPF sector. These phenotypic differences were associated with housing-specific profiles of colonising bacterial in the gut and of faecal metabolites.

Conclusion These results suggest that the housing environment in which gnotobiotic mice are maintained post-FMT strongly influences gut microbiota composition and function and can lead to distinctive phenotypes in recipient mice. Better standardisation of FMT experiments is needed to ensure reproducible and translatable results.

  • diet
  • intestinal bacteria
  • obesity
  • prebiotic
  • fatty liver

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author, AM, on request.

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