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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Microbiol. | doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.02247

Seasonal changes in gut microbiota diversity and composition in the greater horseshoe bat

Guohong Xiao1, Sen Liu2,  Yanghong Xiao3*, Yue Zhu2, Aoqiang Li1, Zhongle Li4 and Jiang Feng1, 4*
  • 1Jilin Provincial Key Laboratory of Animal Resource Conservation and Utilization, Northeast Normal University, China
  • 2Institute of Resources & Environment, Henan Polytechnic University, China
  • 3Jilin Provincial Key Laboratory of Animal Resource Conservation and Utilization, Northeast Normal University, Northeast Normal University, China
  • 4School of Life Science, Jilin Agriculture University, China

A large number of microorganisms colonize the intestines of animals. The gut microbiota plays an important role in nutrient metabolism and affects a number of physiological mechanisms in the host. Studies have shown that seasonal changes occur in the intestinal microbes of mammals that hibernate seasonally. However, these studies only focused on ground squirrels and bears. It remains unclear how hibernation might affect the intestinal microbes of bats. In this study, we measured microbial diversity and composition in the gut of Rhinolophus ferrumequinum in different periods (early spring, early summer, late summer, torpor, and interbout arousal) using 16S ribosomal RNA gene amplicon sequencing and PICRUSt to predict functional profiles. We found seasonal changes in the diversity and composition of the gut microbes in R. ferrumequinum. The diversity of gut microbiota was highest in the late summer and lowest in the early summer. The relative abundance of Proteobacteria was highest in the early summer and significantly lower in other periods. The relative abundance of Firmicutes was lowest in the early summer and significantly increased in the late summer, followed by a significant decrease in the early winter and early spring. The relative abundance of Tenericutes was significantly higher in the early spring compared with other periods. The results of functional prediction by PICRUSt showed seasonal variations in the relative abundance of metabolism-related pathways, including lipid metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, and energy metabolism. Functional categories for carbohydrate metabolism had significantly lower relative abundance in early winter-torpor compared with late summer, while those associated with lipid metabolism had significantly higher relative abundance in the early winter compared with late summer. Overall, our results show that seasonal physiological changes associated with hibernation alter the gut microbial community of R. ferrumequinum. Hibernation may also alter the metabolic function of intestinal microbes, possibly by converting the gut microflora from carbohydrate-related to lipid-related functional categories. This study deepens our understanding of the symbiosis between hibernating mammals and gut microbes.

Keywords: Hibernation, Gut Microbiota, Fasting, Diet, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum

Received: 20 Apr 2019; Accepted: 13 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Xiao, Liu, Xiao, Zhu, Li, Li and Feng. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Dr. Yanghong Xiao, Northeast Normal University, Jilin Provincial Key Laboratory of Animal Resource Conservation and Utilization, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, China, xiaoyh767@nenu.edu.cn
Prof. Jiang Feng, Northeast Normal University, Jilin Provincial Key Laboratory of Animal Resource Conservation and Utilization, Changchun, 130024, Jilin Province, China, fengjianga@nenu.edu.cn