Metatranscriptome analysis of the microbial fermentation of dietary milk proteins in the murine gut

Hugenholtz, Floor; Davids, Mark; Schwarz, Jessica; Müller, Michael; Tomé, Daniel; Schaap, Peter; Hooiveld, Guido J.E.J.; Smidt, Hauke; Kleerebezem, Michiel


Undigestible food ingredients are converted by the microbiota into a large range of metabolites, predominated by short chain fatty acids (SCFA). These microbial metabolites are subsequently available for absorption by the host mucosa and can serve as an energy source. Amino acids fermentation by the microbiota expands the spectrum of fermentation end-products beyond acetate, propionate and butyrate, to include in particular branched-SCFA. Here the long-term effects of high protein-diets on microbial community composition and functionality in mice were analyzed. Determinations of the microbiota composition using phylogenetic microarray (MITChip) technology were complemented with metatranscriptome and SCFA analyses to obtain insight in in situ expression of protein fermentation pathways and the phylogenetic groups involved. High protein diets led to increased luminal concentrations of branched-SCFA, in accordance with protein fermentation in the gut. Bacteria dominantly participating in protein catabolism belonged to the Lachnospiraceae, Erysipelotrichaceae and Clostridiaceae families in both normal- and high- protein diet regimes. This study identifies the microbial groups involved in protein catabolism in the intestine and underpins the value of in situ metatranscriptome analyses as an approach to decipher locally active metabolic networks and pathways as a function of the dietary regime, as well as the phylogeny of the microorganisms executing them.