Current Role at Stanford

Maintain and operate Gnotobiotic research facility.

Honors & Awards

  • Marcia J. Cohen Inspiring Change Leadership Award, Stanford University (2023)

All Publications

  • Improved mouse models of the small intestine microbiota using region-specific sampling from humans. bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology Culver, R. N., Spencer, S. P., Violette, A., Lemus Silva, E. G., Takeuchi, T., Nafarzadegan, C., Higginbottom, S. K., Shalon, D., Sonnenburg, J., Huang, K. C. 2024


    Our understanding of region-specific microbial function within the gut is limited due to reliance on stool. Using a recently developed capsule device, we exploit regional sampling from the human intestines to develop models for interrogating small intestine (SI) microbiota composition and function. In vitro culturing of human intestinal contents produced stable, representative communities that robustly colonize the SI of germ-free mice. During mouse colonization, the combination of SI and stool microbes altered gut microbiota composition, functional capacity, and response to diet, resulting in increased diversity and reproducibility of SI colonization relative to stool microbes alone. Using a diverse strain library representative of the human SI microbiota, we constructed defined communities with taxa that largely exhibited the expected regional preferences. Response to a fiber-deficient diet was region-specific and reflected strain-specific fiber-processing and host mucus-degrading capabilities, suggesting that dietary fiber is critical for maintaining SI microbiota homeostasis. These tools should advance mechanistic modeling of the human SI microbiota and its role in disease and dietary responses.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/2024.04.24.590999

    View details for PubMedID 38712253

  • Metabolic diversity in commensal protists regulates intestinal immunity and trans-kingdom competition. Cell Gerrick, E. R., Zlitni, S., West, P. T., Carter, M. M., Mechler, C. M., Olm, M. R., Caffrey, E. B., Li, J. A., Higginbottom, S. K., Severyn, C. J., Kracke, F., Spormann, A. M., Sonnenburg, J. L., Bhatt, A. S., Howitt, M. R. 2023


    The microbiota influences intestinal health and physiology, yet the contributions of commensal protists to the gut environment have been largely overlooked. Here, we discover human- and rodent-associated parabasalid protists, revealing substantial diversity and prevalence in nonindustrialized human populations. Genomic and metabolomic analyses of murine parabasalids from the genus Tritrichomonas revealed species-level differences in excretion of the metabolite succinate, which results in distinct small intestinal immune responses. Metabolic differences between Tritrichomonas species also determine their ecological niche within the microbiota. By manipulating dietary fibers and developing in vitro protist culture, we show that different Tritrichomonas species prefer dietary polysaccharides or mucus glycans. These polysaccharide preferences drive trans-kingdom competition with specific commensal bacteria, which affects intestinal immunity in a diet-dependent manner. Our findings reveal unappreciated diversity in commensal parabasalids, elucidate differences in commensal protist metabolism, and suggest how dietary interventions could regulate their impact on gut health.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2023.11.018

    View details for PubMedID 38096822

  • Hadza Prevotella require diet-derived microbiota-accessible carbohydrates to persist in mice. Cell reports Gellman, R. H., Olm, M. R., Terrapon, N., Enam, F., Higginbottom, S. K., Sonnenburg, J. L., Sonnenburg, E. D. 2023; 42 (11)


    Industrialization has transformed the gut microbiota, reducing the prevalence of Prevotella relative to Bacteroides. Here, we isolate Bacteroides and Prevotella strains from the microbiota of Hadza hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, a population with high levels of Prevotella. We demonstrate that plant-derived microbiota-accessible carbohydrates (MACs) are required for persistence of Prevotella copri but not Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron in vivo. Differences in carbohydrate metabolism gene content, expression, and in vitro growth reveal that Hadza Prevotella strains specialize in degrading plant carbohydrates, while Hadza Bacteroides isolates use both plant and host-derived carbohydrates, a difference mirrored in Bacteroides from non-Hadza populations. When competing directly, P. copri requires plant-derived MACs to maintain colonization in the presence of B. thetaiotaomicron, as a no-MAC diet eliminates P. copri colonization. Prevotella's reliance on plant-derived MACs and Bacteroides' ability to use host mucus carbohydrates could explain the reduced prevalence of Prevotella in populations consuming a low-MAC, industrialized diet.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.113233

    View details for PubMedID 38510311

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10954246

  • Hadza<i> Prevotella</i> require diet-derived microbiota-accessible carbohydrates to persist in mice CELL REPORTS Gellman, R. H., Olm, M. R., Terrapon, N., Enam, F., Higginbottom, S. K., Sonnenburg, J. L., Sonnenburg, E. D. 2023; 42 (11)
  • A mutant fitness compendium in Bifidobacteria reveals molecular determinants of colonization and host-microbe interactions. bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology Shiver, A. L., Sun, J., Culver, R., Violette, A., Wynter, C., Nieckarz, M., Mattiello, S. P., Sekhon, P. K., Friess, L., Carlson, H. K., Wong, D., Higginbottom, S., Weglarz, M., Wang, W., Knapp, B. D., Guiberson, E., Sanchez, J., Huang, P. H., Garcia, P. A., Buie, C. R., Good, B., DeFelice, B., Cava, F., Scaria, J., Sonnenburg, J., Sinderen, D. V., Deutschbauer, A. M., Huang, K. C. 2023


    Bifidobacteria commonly represent a dominant constituent of human gut microbiomes during infancy, influencing nutrition, immune development, and resistance to infection. Despite interest as a probiotic therapy, predicting the nutritional requirements and health-promoting effects of Bifidobacteria is challenging due to major knowledge gaps. To overcome these deficiencies, we used large-scale genetics to create a compendium of mutant fitness in Bifidobacterium breve (Bb). We generated a high density, randomly barcoded transposon insertion pool in Bb, and used this pool to determine Bb fitness requirements during colonization of germ-free mice and chickens with multiple diets and in response to hundreds of in vitro perturbations. To enable mechanistic investigation, we constructed an ordered collection of insertion strains covering 1462 genes. We leveraged these tools to improve models of metabolic pathways, reveal unexpected host- and diet-specific requirements for colonization, and connect the production of immunomodulatory molecules to growth benefits. These resources will greatly reduce the barrier to future investigations of this important beneficial microbe.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/2023.08.29.555234

    View details for PubMedID 37693407

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10491234

  • Mapping the T cell repertoire to a complex gut bacterial community. Nature Nagashima, K., Zhao, A., Atabakhsh, K., Bae, M., Blum, J. E., Weakley, A., Jain, S., Meng, X., Cheng, A. G., Wang, M., Higginbottom, S., Dimas, A., Murugkar, P., Sattely, E. S., Moon, J. J., Balskus, E. P., Fischbach, M. A. 2023


    Certain bacterial strains from the microbiome induce a potent, antigen-specific T cell response1-5. However, the specificity of microbiome-induced T cells has not been explored at the strain level across the gut community. Here, we colonize germ-free mice with complex defined communities (roughly 100 bacterial strains) and profile T cell responses to each strain. The pattern of responses suggests that many T cells in the gut repertoire recognize several bacterial strains from the community. We constructed T cell hybridomas from 92 T cell receptor (TCR) clonotypes; by screening every strain in the community against each hybridoma, we find that nearly all the bacteria-specific TCRs show a one-to-many TCR-to-strain relationship, including 13 abundant TCR clonotypes that each recognize 18 Firmicutes. By screening three pooled bacterial genomic libraries, we discover that these 13 clonotypes share a single target: a conserved substrate-binding protein from an ATP-binding cassette transport system. Peripheral regulatory T cells and T helper 17 cells specific for an epitope from this protein are abundant in community-colonized and specific pathogen-free mice. Our work reveals that T cell recognition of commensals is focused on widely conserved, highly expressed cell-surface antigens, opening the door to new therapeutic strategies in which colonist-specific immune responses are rationally altered or redirected.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-023-06431-8

    View details for PubMedID 37587342

    View details for PubMedCentralID 4128479

  • Region-specific sampling from humans improves mouse models of the small intestine microbiota Spencer, S., Culver, R., Silva, E., Higginbottom, S., Shalon, D., Sonnenburg, J., Huang, K. C. WILEY. 2023
  • Strain dropouts reveal interactions that govern the metabolic output of the gut microbiome. Cell Wang, M., Osborn, L. J., Jain, S., Meng, X., Weakley, A., Yan, J., Massey, W. J., Varadharajan, V., Horak, A., Banerjee, R., Allende, D. S., Chan, E. R., Hajjar, A. M., Wang, Z., Dimas, A., Zhao, A., Nagashima, K., Cheng, A. G., Higginbottom, S., Hazen, S. L., Brown, J. M., Fischbach, M. A. 2023; 186 (13): 2839-2852.e21


    The gut microbiome is complex, raising questions about the role of individual strains in the community. Here, we address this question by constructing variants of a complex defined community in which we eliminate strains that occupy the bile acid 7α-dehydroxylation niche. Omitting Clostridium scindens (Cs) and Clostridium hylemonae (Ch) eliminates secondary bile acid production and reshapes the community in a highly specific manner: eight strains change in relative abundance by >100-fold. In single-strain dropout communities, Cs and Ch reach the same relative abundance and dehydroxylate bile acids to a similar extent. However, Clostridium sporogenes increases >1,000-fold in the ΔCs but not ΔCh dropout, reshaping the pool of microbiome-derived phenylalanine metabolites. Thus, strains that are functionally redundant within a niche can have widely varying impacts outside the niche, and a strain swap can ripple through the community in an unpredictable manner, resulting in a large impact on an unrelated community-level phenotype.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2023.05.037

    View details for PubMedID 37352836

  • Hadza Prevotella Require Diet-derived Microbiota Accessible Carbohydrates to Persist in Mice. bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology Gellman, R. H., Olm, M. R., Terrapon, N., Enam, F., Higginbottom, S. K., Sonnenburg, J. L., Sonnenburg, E. D. 2023


    Industrialization has transformed the gut microbiota, reducing the prevalence of Prevotella relative to Bacteroides. Here, we isolate Bacteroides and Prevotella strains from the microbiota of Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania, a population with high levels of Prevotella. We demonstrate that plant-derived microbiota-accessible carbohydrates (MACs) are required for persistence of Prevotella copri but not Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron in vivo. Differences in carbohydrate metabolism gene content, expression, and in vitro growth reveal that Hadza Prevotella strains specialize in degrading plant carbohydrates, while Hadza Bacteroides isolates use both plant and host-derived carbohydrates, a difference mirrored in Bacteroides from non-Hadza populations. When competing directly, P. copri requires plant-derived MACs to maintain colonization in the presence of B. thetaiotaomicron, as a no MAC diet eliminates P. copri colonization. Prevotella's reliance on plant-derived MACs and Bacteroides' ability to use host mucus carbohydrates could explain the reduced prevalence of Prevotella in populations consuming a low-MAC, industrialized diet.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/2023.03.08.531063

    View details for PubMedID 36945614

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10028851

  • Host-microbe co-metabolism via MCAD generates circulating metabolites including hippuric acid. Nature communications Pruss, K. M., Chen, H., Liu, Y., Van Treuren, W., Higginbottom, S. K., Jarman, J. B., Fischer, C. R., Mak, J., Wong, B., Cowan, T. M., Fischbach, M. A., Sonnenburg, J. L., Dodd, D. 2023; 14 (1): 512


    The human gut microbiota produces dozens of small molecules that circulate in blood, accumulate to comparable levels as pharmaceutical drugs, and influence host physiology. Despite the importance of these metabolites to human health and disease, the origin of most microbially-produced molecules and their fate in the host remains largely unknown. Here, we uncover a host-microbe co-metabolic pathway for generation of hippuric acid, one of the most abundant organic acids in mammalian urine. Combining stable isotope tracing with bacterial and host genetics, we demonstrate reduction of phenylalanine to phenylpropionic acid by gut bacteria; the host re-oxidizes phenylpropionic acid involving medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD). Generation of germ-free male and female MCAD-/- mice enabled gnotobiotic colonization combined with untargeted metabolomics to identify additional microbial metabolites processed by MCAD in host circulation. Our findings uncover a host-microbe pathway for the abundant, non-toxic phenylalanine metabolite hippurate and identify β-oxidation via MCAD as a novel mechanism by which mammals metabolize microbiota-derived metabolites.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-023-36138-3

    View details for PubMedID 36720857

  • Butyrate Differentiates Permissiveness to Clostridioides difficile Infection and Influences Growth of Diverse C. difficile Isolates. Infection and immunity Pensinger, D. A., Fisher, A. T., Dobrila, H. A., Van Treuren, W., Gardner, J. O., Higginbottom, S. K., Carter, M. M., Schumann, B., Bertozzi, C. R., Anikst, V., Martin, C., Robilotti, E. V., Chow, J. M., Buck, R. H., Tompkins, L. S., Sonnenburg, J. L., Hryckowian, A. J. 2023: e0057022


    A disrupted "dysbiotic" gut microbiome engenders susceptibility to the diarrheal pathogen Clostridioides difficile by impacting the metabolic milieu of the gut. Diet, in particular the microbiota-accessible carbohydrates (MACs) found in dietary fiber, is one of the most powerful ways to affect the composition and metabolic output of the gut microbiome. As such, diet is a powerful tool for understanding the biology of C. difficile and for developing alternative approaches for coping with this pathogen. One prominent class of metabolites produced by the gut microbiome is short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), the major metabolic end products of MAC metabolism. SCFAs are known to decrease the fitness of C. difficile in vitro, and high intestinal SCFA concentrations are associated with reduced fitness of C. difficile in animal models of C. difficile infection (CDI). Here, we use controlled dietary conditions (8 diets that differ only by MAC composition) to show that C. difficile fitness is most consistently impacted by butyrate, rather than the other two prominent SCFAs (acetate and propionate), during murine model CDI. We similarly show that butyrate concentrations are lower in fecal samples from humans with CDI than in those from healthy controls. Finally, we demonstrate that butyrate impacts growth in diverse C. difficile isolates. These findings provide a foundation for future work which will dissect how butyrate directly impacts C. difficile fitness and will lead to the development of diverse approaches distinct from antibiotics or fecal transplant, such as dietary interventions, for mitigating CDI in at-risk human populations. IMPORTANCE Clostridioides difficile is a leading cause of infectious diarrhea in humans, and it imposes a tremendous burden on the health care system. Current treatments for C. difficile infection (CDI) include antibiotics and fecal microbiota transplant, which contribute to recurrent CDIs and face major regulatory hurdles, respectively. Therefore, there is an ongoing need to develop new ways to cope with CDI. Notably, a disrupted "dysbiotic" gut microbiota is the primary risk factor for CDI, but we incompletely understand how a healthy microbiota resists CDI. Here, we show that a specific molecule produced by the gut microbiota, butyrate, is negatively associated with C. difficile burdens in humans and in a mouse model of CDI and that butyrate impedes the growth of diverse C. difficile strains in pure culture. These findings help to build a foundation for designing alternative, possibly diet-based, strategies for mitigating CDI in humans.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/iai.00570-22

    View details for PubMedID 36692308

  • Design, construction, and invivo augmentation of a complex gut microbiome. Cell Cheng, A. G., Ho, P., Aranda-Diaz, A., Jain, S., Yu, F. B., Meng, X., Wang, M., Iakiviak, M., Nagashima, K., Zhao, A., Murugkar, P., Patil, A., Atabakhsh, K., Weakley, A., Yan, J., Brumbaugh, A. R., Higginbottom, S., Dimas, A., Shiver, A. L., Deutschbauer, A., Neff, N., Sonnenburg, J. L., Huang, K. C., Fischbach, M. A. 2022


    Efforts to model the human gut microbiome in mice have led to important insights into the mechanisms of host-microbe interactions. However, the model communities studied to date have been defined or complex, but not both, limiting their utility. Here, we construct and characterize invitro a defined community of 104 bacterial species composed of the most common taxa from the human gut microbiota (hCom1). We then used an iterative experimental process to fill open niches: germ-free mice were colonized with hCom1 and then challenged with a human fecal sample. We identified new species that engrafted following fecal challenge and added them to hCom1, yielding hCom2. In gnotobiotic mice, hCom2 exhibited increased stability to fecal challenge and robust colonization resistance against pathogenic Escherichia coli. Mice colonized by either hCom2 or a human fecal community are phenotypically similar, suggesting that this consortium will enable a mechanistic interrogation of species and genes on microbiome-associated phenotypes.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2022.08.003

    View details for PubMedID 36070752

  • Clostridium sporogenes uses reductive Stickland metabolism in the gut to generate ATP and produce circulating metabolites. Nature microbiology Liu, Y., Chen, H., Van Treuren, W., Hou, B., Higginbottom, S. K., Dodd, D. 2022; 7 (5): 695-706


    Gut bacteria face a key problem in how they capture enough energy to sustain their growth and physiology. The gut bacterium Clostridium sporogenes obtains its energy by utilizing amino acids in pairs, coupling the oxidation of one to the reduction of another-the Stickland reaction. Oxidative pathways produce ATP via substrate-level phosphorylation, whereas reductive pathways are thought to balance redox. In the present study, we investigated whether these reductive pathways are also linked to energy generation and the production of microbial metabolites that may circulate and impact host physiology. Using metabolomics, we find that, during growth in vitro, C. sporogenes produces 15 metabolites, 13 of which are present in the gut of C. sporogenes-colonized mice. Four of these compounds are reductive Stickland metabolites that circulate in the blood of gnotobiotic mice and are also detected in plasma from healthy humans. Gene clusters for reductive Stickland pathways suggest involvement of electron transfer proteins, and experiments in vitro demonstrate that reductive metabolism is coupled to ATP formation and not just redox balance. Genetic analysis points to the broadly conserved Rnf complex as a key coupling site for energy transduction. Rnf complex mutants show aberrant amino acid metabolism in a defined medium and are attenuated for growth in the mouse gut, demonstrating a role of the Rnf complex in Stickland metabolism and gut colonization. Our findings reveal that the production of circulating metabolites by a commensal bacterium within the host gut is linked to an ATP-yielding redox process.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41564-022-01109-9

    View details for PubMedID 35505245

  • Oxidative ornithine metabolism supports non-inflammatory C.difficile colonization. Nature metabolism Pruss, K. M., Enam, F., Battaglioli, E., DeFeo, M., Diaz, O. R., Higginbottom, S. K., Fischer, C. R., Hryckowian, A. J., Van Treuren, W., Dodd, D., Kashyap, P., Sonnenburg, J. L. 1800


    The enteric pathogen Clostridioidesdifficile (Cd) is responsible for a toxin-mediated infection that causes more than 200,000 recorded hospitalizations and 13,000 deaths in the United States every year1. However, Cd can colonize the gut in the absence of disease symptoms. Prevalence of asymptomatic colonization by toxigenic Cd in healthy populations is high; asymptomatic carriers are at increased risk of infection compared to noncolonized individuals and may be a reservoir for transmission of Cd infection2,3. Elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which Cd persists in the absence of disease is necessary for understanding pathogenesis and developing refined therapeutic strategies. Here, we show with gut microbiome metatranscriptomic analysis that mice recalcitrant to Cd infection and inflammation exhibit increased community-wide expression of arginine and ornithine metabolic pathways. To query Cd metabolism specifically, we leverage RNA sequencing in gnotobiotic mice infected with two wild-type strains (630 and R20291) and isogenic toxin-deficient mutants of these strains to differentiate inflammation-dependent versus -independent transcriptional states. A single operon encoding oxidative ornithine degradation is consistently upregulated across non-toxigenic Cd strains. Combining untargeted and targeted metabolomics with bacterial and host genetics, we demonstrate that both diet- and host-derived sources of ornithine provide a competitive advantage to Cd, suggesting a mechanism for Cd persistence within a non-inflammatory, healthy gut.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s42255-021-00506-4

    View details for PubMedID 34992297

  • Establishment and characterization of stable, diverse, fecal-derived in vitro microbial communities that model the intestinal microbiota. Cell host & microbe Aranda-Díaz, A., Ng, K. M., Thomsen, T., Real-Ramírez, I., Dahan, D., Dittmar, S., Gonzalez, C. G., Chavez, T., Vasquez, K. S., Nguyen, T. H., Yu, F. B., Higginbottom, S. K., Neff, N. F., Elias, J. E., Sonnenburg, J. L., Huang, K. C. 2022


    Efforts to probe the role of the gut microbiota in disease would benefit from a system in which patient-derived bacterial communities can be studied at scale. We addressed this by validating a strategy to propagate phylogenetically complex, diverse, stable, and highly reproducible stool-derived communities in vitro. We generated hundreds of in vitro communities cultured from diverse stool samples in various media; certain media generally preserved inoculum composition, and inocula from different subjects yielded source-specific community compositions. Upon colonization of germ-free mice, community composition was maintained, and the host proteome resembled the host from which the community was derived. Treatment with ciprofloxacin in vivo increased susceptibility to Salmonella invasion in vitro, and the in vitro response to ciprofloxacin was predictive of compositional changes observed in vivo, including the resilience and sensitivity of each Bacteroides species. These findings demonstrate that stool-derived in vitro communities can serve as a powerful system for microbiota research.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.chom.2021.12.008

    View details for PubMedID 35051349

  • Quantifying rapid bacterial evolution and transmission within the mouse intestine. Cell host & microbe Vasquez, K. S., Willis, L., Cira, N. J., Ng, K. M., Pedro, M. F., Aranda-Diaz, A., Rajendram, M., Yu, F. B., Higginbottom, S. K., Neff, N., Sherlock, G., Xavier, K. B., Quake, S. R., Sonnenburg, J. L., Good, B. H., Huang, K. C. 2021


    Due to limitations on high-resolution strain tracking, selection dynamics during gut microbiota colonization and transmission between hosts remain mostly mysterious. Here, we introduced hundreds of barcoded Escherichiacoli strains into germ-free mice and quantified strain-level dynamics and metagenomic changes. Mutations in genes involved in motility and metabolite utilization are reproducibly selected within days. Even with rapid selection, coprophagy enforced similar barcode distributions across co-housed mice. Whole-genome sequencing of hundreds of isolates revealed linked alleles that demonstrate between-host transmission. A population-genetics model predicts substantial fitness advantages for certain mutants and that migration accounted for 10% of the resident microbiota each day. Treatment with ciprofloxacin suggests interplay between selection and transmission. While initial colonization was mostly uniform, in two mice a bottleneck reduced diversity and selected for ciprofloxacin resistance in the absence of drug. These findings highlight the interplay between environmental transmission and rapid, deterministic selection during evolution of the intestinal microbiota.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.chom.2021.08.003

    View details for PubMedID 34473943

  • A metabolomics pipeline for the mechanistic interrogation of the gut microbiome. Nature Han, S., Van Treuren, W., Fischer, C. R., Merrill, B. D., DeFelice, B. C., Sanchez, J. M., Higginbottom, S. K., Guthrie, L., Fall, L. A., Dodd, D., Fischbach, M. A., Sonnenburg, J. L. 2021; 595 (7867): 415-420


    Gut microorganisms modulate host phenotypes and are associated with numerous health effects in humans, ranging from host responses to cancer immunotherapy to metabolic disease and obesity. However, difficulty in accurate and high-throughput functional analysis of human gut microorganisms has hindered efforts to define mechanistic connections between individual microbial strains and host phenotypes. One key way in which the gut microbiome influences host physiology is through the production of small molecules1-3, yet progress in elucidating this chemical interplay has been hindered by limited tools calibrated to detect the products of anaerobic biochemistry in the gut. Here we construct a microbiome-focused, integrated mass-spectrometry pipeline to accelerate the identification of microbiota-dependent metabolites in diverse sample types. We report the metabolic profiles of 178 gut microorganism strains using our library of 833 metabolites. Using this metabolomics resource, we establish deviations in the relationships between phylogeny and metabolism, use machine learning to discover a previously undescribed type of metabolism in Bacteroides, and reveal candidate biochemical pathways using comparative genomics. Microbiota-dependent metabolites can be detected in diverse biological fluids from gnotobiotic and conventionally colonized mice and traced back to the corresponding metabolomic profiles of cultured bacteria. Collectively, our microbiome-focused metabolomics pipeline and interactive metabolomics profile explorer are a powerful tool for characterizing microorganisms and interactions between microorganisms and their host.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-021-03707-9

    View details for PubMedID 34262212

  • Mucin-derived O-glycans supplemented to diet mitigate diverse microbiota perturbations. The ISME journal Pruss, K. M., Marcobal, A., Southwick, A. M., Dahan, D., Smits, S. A., Ferreyra, J. A., Higginbottom, S. K., Sonnenburg, E. D., Kashyap, P. C., Choudhury, B., Bode, L., Sonnenburg, J. L. 2020


    Microbiota-accessible carbohydrates (MACs) are powerful modulators of microbiota composition and function. These substrates are often derived from diet, such as complex polysaccharides from plants or human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) during breastfeeding. Host-derived mucus glycans on gut-secreted mucin proteins serve as a continuous endogenous source of MACs for resident microbes; here we investigate the potential role of purified, orally administered mucus glycans in maintaining a healthy microbial community. In this study, we liberated and purified O-linked glycans from porcine gastric mucin and assessed their efficacy in shaping the recovery of a perturbed microbiota in a mouse model. We found that porcine mucin glycans (PMGs) and HMOs enrich for taxonomically similar resident microbes. We demonstrate that PMGs aid recovery of the microbiota after antibiotic treatment, suppress Clostridium difficile abundance, delay the onset of diet-induced obesity, and increase the relative abundance of resident Akkermansia muciniphila. In silico analysis revealed that genes associated with mucus utilization are abundant and diverse in prevalent gut commensals and rare in enteric pathogens, consistent with these glycan-degrading capabilities being selected for during host development and throughout the evolution of the host-microbe relationship. Importantly, we identify mucus glycans as a novel class of prebiotic compounds that can be used to mitigate perturbations to the microbiota and provide benefits to host physiology.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41396-020-00798-6

    View details for PubMedID 33087860

  • A Metabolic Pathway for Activation of Dietary Glucosinolates by a Human Gut Symbiont. Cell Liou, C. S., Sirk, S. J., Diaz, C. A., Klein, A. P., Fischer, C. R., Higginbottom, S. K., Erez, A., Donia, M. S., Sonnenburg, J. L., Sattely, E. S. 2020; 180 (4): 717


    Consumption of glucosinolates, pro-drug-like metabolites abundant in Brassica vegetables, has been associated with decreased risk of certain cancers. Gut microbiota have the ability to metabolize glucosinolates, generating chemopreventive isothiocyanates. Here, we identify a genetic and biochemical basis for activation of glucosinolates to isothiocyanates by Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a prominent gut commensal species. Using a genome-wide transposon insertion screen, we identified an operon required for glucosinolate metabolism in B.thetaiotaomicron. Expression of BT2159-BT2156 in a non-metabolizing relative, Bacteroides fragilis, resulted in gain of glucosinolate metabolism. We show that isothiocyanate formation requires the action of BT2158 and either BT2156 or BT2157 invitro. Monocolonization of mice with mutant BtDelta2157 showed reduced isothiocyanate production in the gastrointestinal tract. These data provide insight into the mechanisms by which a common gut bacterium processes an important dietary nutrient.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2020.01.023

    View details for PubMedID 32084341

  • A metabolic pathway for bile acid dehydroxylation by the gut microbiome. Nature Funabashi, M. n., Grove, T. L., Wang, M. n., Varma, Y. n., McFadden, M. E., Brown, L. C., Guo, C. n., Higginbottom, S. n., Almo, S. C., Fischbach, M. A. 2020


    The gut microbiota synthesize hundreds of molecules, many of which influence host physiology. Among the most abundant metabolites are the secondary bile acids deoxycholic acid (DCA) and lithocholic acid (LCA), which accumulate at concentrations of around 500 μM and are known to block the growth of Clostridium difficile1, promote hepatocellular carcinoma2 and modulate host metabolism via the G-protein-coupled receptor TGR5 (ref. 3). More broadly, DCA, LCA and their derivatives are major components of the recirculating pool of bile acids4; the size and composition of this pool are a target of therapies for primary biliary cholangitis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Nonetheless, despite the clear impact of DCA and LCA on host physiology, an incomplete knowledge of their biosynthetic genes and a lack of genetic tools to enable modification of their native microbial producers limit our ability to modulate secondary bile acid levels in the host. Here we complete the pathway to DCA and LCA by assigning and characterizing enzymes for each of the steps in its reductive arm, revealing a strategy in which the A-B rings of the steroid core are transiently converted into an electron acceptor for two reductive steps carried out by Fe-S flavoenzymes. Using anaerobic in vitro reconstitution, we establish that a set of six enzymes is necessary and sufficient for the eight-step conversion of cholic acid to DCA. We then engineer the pathway into Clostridium sporogenes, conferring production of DCA and LCA on a nonproducing commensal and demonstrating that a microbiome-derived pathway can be expressed and controlled heterologously. These data establish a complete pathway to two central components of the bile acid pool.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-020-2396-4

    View details for PubMedID 32555455

  • Depletion of microbiome-derived molecules in the host using Clostridium genetics. Science (New York, N.Y.) Guo, C., Allen, B. M., Hiam, K. J., Dodd, D., Van Treuren, W., Higginbottom, S., Nagashima, K., Fischer, C. R., Sonnenburg, J. L., Spitzer, M. H., Fischbach, M. A. 2019; 366 (6471)


    The gut microbiota produce hundreds of molecules that are present at high concentrations in the host circulation. Unraveling the contribution of each molecule to host biology remains difficult. We developed a system for constructing clean deletions in Clostridium spp., the source of many molecules from the gut microbiome. By applying this method to the model commensal organism Clostridium sporogenes, we knocked out genes for 10 C. sporogenes-derived molecules that accumulate in host tissues. In mice colonized by a C. sporogenes for which the production of branched short-chain fatty acids was knocked out, we discovered that these microbial products have immunoglobulin A-modulatory activity.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.aav1282

    View details for PubMedID 31831639

  • Western diet regulates immune status and the response to LPS-driven sepsis independent of diet-associated microbiome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Napier, B. A., Andres-Terre, M., Massis, L. M., Hryckowian, A. J., Higginbottom, S. K., Cumnock, K., Casey, K. M., Haileselassie, B., Lugo, K. A., Schneider, D. S., Sonnenburg, J. L., Monack, D. M. 2019; 116 (9): 3688–94


    Sepsis is a deleterious immune response to infection that leads to organ failure and is the 11th most common cause of death worldwide. Despite plaguing humanity for thousands of years, the host factors that regulate this immunological response and subsequent sepsis severity and outcome are not fully understood. Here we describe how the Western diet (WD), a diet high in fat and sucrose and low in fiber, found rampant in industrialized countries, leads to worse disease and poorer outcomes in an LPS-driven sepsis model in WD-fed mice compared with mice fed standard fiber-rich chow (SC). We find that WD-fed mice have higher baseline inflammation (metaflammation) and signs of sepsis-associated immunoparalysis compared with SC-fed mice. WD mice also have an increased frequency of neutrophils, some with an "aged" phenotype, in the blood during sepsis compared with SC mice. Importantly, we found that the WD-dependent increase in sepsis severity and higher mortality is independent of the microbiome, suggesting that the diet may be directly regulating the innate immune system through an unknown mechanism. Strikingly, we could predict LPS-driven sepsis outcome by tracking specific WD-dependent disease factors (e.g., hypothermia and frequency of neutrophils in the blood) during disease progression and recovery. We conclude that the WD is reprogramming the basal immune status and acute response to LPS-driven sepsis and that this correlates with alternative disease paths that lead to more severe disease and poorer outcomes.

    View details for PubMedID 30808756

  • Recovery of the Gut Microbiota after Antibiotics Depends on Host Diet, Community Context, and Environmental Reservoirs. Cell host & microbe Ng, K. M., Aranda-Díaz, A. n., Tropini, C. n., Frankel, M. R., Van Treuren, W. n., O'Laughlin, C. T., Merrill, B. D., Yu, F. B., Pruss, K. M., Oliveira, R. A., Higginbottom, S. K., Neff, N. F., Fischbach, M. A., Xavier, K. B., Sonnenburg, J. L., Huang, K. C. 2019; 26 (5): 650–65.e4


    Antibiotics alter microbiota composition and increase infection susceptibility. However, the generalizable effects of antibiotics on and the contribution of environmental variables to gut commensals remain unclear. To address this, we tracked microbiota dynamics with high temporal and taxonomic resolution during antibiotic treatment in a controlled murine system by isolating variables such as diet, treatment history, and housing co-inhabitants. Human microbiotas were remarkably resilient and recovered during antibiotic treatment, with transient dominance of resistant Bacteroides and taxa-asymmetric diversity reduction. In certain cases, in vitro sensitivities were not predictive of in vivo responses, underscoring the significance of host and community context. A fiber-deficient diet exacerbated microbiota collapse and delayed recovery. Species replacement through cross housing after ciprofloxacin treatment established resilience to a second treatment. Single housing drastically disrupted recovery, highlighting the importance of environmental reservoirs. Our findings highlight deterministic microbiota adaptations to perturbations and the translational potential for modulating diet, sanitation, and microbiota composition during antibiotics.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.chom.2019.10.011

    View details for PubMedID 31726029

  • Transient Osmotic Perturbation Causes Long-Term Alteration to the Gut Microbiota. Cell Tropini, C., Moss, E. L., Merrill, B. D., Ng, K. M., Higginbottom, S. K., Casavant, E. P., Gonzalez, C. G., Fremin, B., Bouley, D. M., Elias, J. E., Bhatt, A. S., Huang, K. C., Sonnenburg, J. L. 2018; 173 (7): 1742


    Osmotic diarrhea is a prevalent condition in humans caused by food intolerance, malabsorption, and widespread laxative use. Here, we assess the resilience of the gut ecosystem to osmotic perturbation at multiple length and timescales using mice as model hosts. Osmotic stress caused reproducible extinction of highly abundant taxa and expansion of less prevalent members in human and mouse microbiotas. Quantitative imaging revealed decimation of the mucus barrier during osmotic perturbation, followed by recovery. The immune system exhibited temporary changes in cytokine levels and a lasting IgG response against commensal bacteria. Increased osmolality prevented growth of commensal strains invitro, revealing one mechanism contributing to extinction. Environmental availability of microbiota members mitigated extinction events, demonstrating how species reintroduction can affect community resilience. Our findings (1) demonstrate that even mild osmotic diarrhea can cause lasting changes to the microbiota and host and (2) lay the foundation for interventions that increase system-wide resilience.

    View details for PubMedID 29906449

  • Genetic Variation of the SusC/SusD Homologs from a Polysaccharide Utilization Locus Underlies Divergent Fructan Specificities and Functional Adaptation in Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron Strains. mSphere Joglekar, P., Sonnenburg, E. D., Higginbottom, S. K., Earle, K. A., Morland, C., Shapiro-Ward, S., Bolam, D. N., Sonnenburg, J. L. 2018; 3 (3)


    Genomic differences between gut-resident bacterial strains likely underlie significant interindividual variation in microbiome function. Traditional methods of determining community composition, such as 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, fail to capture this functional diversity. Metagenomic approaches are a significant step forward in identifying strain-level sequence variants; however, given the current paucity of biochemical information, they too are limited to mainly low-resolution and incomplete functional predictions. Using genomic, biochemical, and molecular approaches, we identified differences in the fructan utilization profiles of two closely related Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron strains. B.thetaiotaomicron 8736 (Bt-8736) contains a fructan polysaccharide utilization locus (PUL) with a divergent susC/susD homolog gene pair that enables it to utilize inulin, differentiating this strain from other characterized Bt strains. Transfer of the distinct pair of susC/susD genes from Bt-8736 into the noninulin using type strain B.thetaiotaomicronVPI-5482 resulted in inulin use by the recipient strain, Bt(8736-2). The presence of the divergent susC/susD gene pair alone enabled the hybrid Bt(8736-2) strain to outcompete the wild-type strain in vivo in mice fed an inulin diet. Further, we discovered that the susC/susD homolog gene pair facilitated import of inulin into the periplasm without surface predigestion by an endo-acting enzyme, possibly due to the short average chain length of inulin compared to many other polysaccharides. Our data builds upon recent reports of dietary polysaccharide utilization mechanisms found in members of the Bacteroides genus and demonstrates how the acquisition of two genes can alter the functionality and success of a strain within the gut.IMPORTANCE Dietary polysaccharides play a dominant role in shaping the composition and functionality of our gut microbiota. Dietary interventions using these microbiota-accessible carbohydrates (MACs) serve as a promising tool for manipulating the gut microbial community. However, our current gap in knowledge regarding microbial metabolic pathways that are involved in the degradation of these MACs has made the design of rational interventions difficult. The issue is further complicated by the diversity of pathways observed for the utilization of similar MACs, even in closely related microbial strains. Our current work focuses on divergent fructan utilization pathways in two closely related B.thetaiotaomicron strains and provides an integrated approach to characterize the molecular basis for strain-level functional differences.

    View details for PubMedID 29794055

  • A gut bacterial pathway metabolizes aromatic amino acids into nine circulating metabolites. Nature Dodd, D. n., Spitzer, M. H., Van Treuren, W. n., Merrill, B. D., Hryckowian, A. J., Higginbottom, S. K., Le, A. n., Cowan, T. M., Nolan, G. P., Fischbach, M. A., Sonnenburg, J. L. 2017; 551 (7682): 648–52


    The human gut microbiota produces dozens of metabolites that accumulate in the bloodstream, where they can have systemic effects on the host. Although these small molecules commonly reach concentrations similar to those achieved by pharmaceutical agents, remarkably little is known about the microbial metabolic pathways that produce them. Here we use a combination of genetics and metabolic profiling to characterize a pathway from the gut symbiont Clostridium sporogenes that generates aromatic amino acid metabolites. Our results reveal that this pathway produces twelve compounds, nine of which are known to accumulate in host serum. All three aromatic amino acids (tryptophan, phenylalanine and tyrosine) serve as substrates for the pathway, and it involves branching and alternative reductases for specific intermediates. By genetically manipulating C. sporogenes, we modulate serum levels of these metabolites in gnotobiotic mice, and show that in turn this affects intestinal permeability and systemic immunity. This work has the potential to provide the basis of a systematic effort to engineer the molecular output of the gut bacterial community.

    View details for PubMedID 29168502

  • Individualized Responses of Gut Microbiota to Dietary Intervention Modeled in Humanized Mice. mSystems Smits, S. A., Marcobal, A., Higginbottom, S., Sonnenburg, J. L., Kashyap, P. C. 2016; 1 (5)


    Diet plays an important role in shaping the structure and function of the gut microbiota. The microbes and microbial products in turn can influence various aspects of host physiology. One promising route to affect host function and restore health is by altering the gut microbiome using dietary intervention. The individuality of the microbiome may pose a significant challenge, so we sought to determine how different microbiotas respond to the same dietary intervention in a controlled setting. We modeled gut microbiotas from three healthy donors in germfree mice and defined compositional and functional alteration following a change in dietary microbiota-accessible carbohydrates (MACs). The three gut communities exhibited responses that differed markedly in magnitude and in the composition of microbiota-derived metabolites. Adjustments in community membership did not correspond to the magnitude of changes in the microbial metabolites, highlighting potential challenges in predicting functional responses from compositional data and the need to assess multiple microbiota parameters following dietary interventions. IMPORTANCE Dietary modification has long been used empirically to modify symptoms in inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and a diverse group of diseases with gastrointestinal symptoms. There is both anecdotal and scientific evidence to suggest that individuals respond quite differently to similar dietary changes, and the highly individualized nature of the gut microbiota makes it a prime candidate for these differences. To overcome the typical confounding factors of human dietary interventions, here we employ ex-germfree mice colonized by microbiotas of three different humans to test how different microbiotas respond to a defined change in carbohydrate content of diet by measuring changes in microbiota composition and function using marker gene-based next-generation sequencing and metabolomics. Our findings suggest that the same diet has very different effects on each microbiota's membership and function, which may in turn explain interindividual differences in response to a dietary ingredient.

    View details for PubMedID 27822551

  • Diet-induced extinctions in the gut microbiota compound over generations. Nature Sonnenburg, E. D., Smits, S. A., Tikhonov, M., Higginbottom, S. K., Wingreen, N. S., Sonnenburg, J. L. 2016; 529 (7585): 212-215


    The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms that have fundamental roles in many aspects of human biology, including immune function and metabolism. The reduced diversity of the gut microbiota in Western populations compared to that in populations living traditional lifestyles presents the question of which factors have driven microbiota change during modernization. Microbiota-accessible carbohydrates (MACs) found in dietary fibre have a crucial involvement in shaping this microbial ecosystem, and are notably reduced in the Western diet (high in fat and simple carbohydrates, low in fibre) compared with a more traditional diet. Here we show that changes in the microbiota of mice consuming a low-MAC diet and harbouring a human microbiota are largely reversible within a single generation. However, over several generations, a low-MAC diet results in a progressive loss of diversity, which is not recoverable after the reintroduction of dietary MACs. To restore the microbiota to its original state requires the administration of missing taxa in combination with dietary MAC consumption. Our data illustrate that taxa driven to low abundance when dietary MACs are scarce are inefficiently transferred to the next generation, and are at increased risk of becoming extinct within an isolated population. As more diseases are linked to the Western microbiota and the microbiota is targeted therapeutically, microbiota reprogramming may need to involve strategies that incorporate dietary MACs as well as taxa not currently present in the Western gut.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature16504

    View details for PubMedID 26762459

  • A small-molecule antivirulence agent for treating Clostridium difficile infection. Science translational medicine Bender, K. O., Garland, M., Ferreyra, J. A., Hryckowian, A. J., Child, M. A., Puri, A. W., Solow-Cordero, D. E., Higginbottom, S. K., Segal, E., Banaei, N., Shen, A., Sonnenburg, J. L., Bogyo, M. 2015; 7 (306): 306ra148-?


    Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is a worldwide health threat that is typically triggered by the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, which disrupt the natural gut microbiota and allow this Gram-positive anaerobic pathogen to thrive. The increased incidence and severity of disease coupled with decreased response, high recurrence rates, and emergence of multiple antibiotic-resistant strains have created an urgent need for new therapies. We describe pharmacological targeting of the cysteine protease domain (CPD) within the C. difficile major virulence factor toxin B (TcdB). Through a targeted screen with an activity-based probe for this protease domain, we identified a number of potent CPD inhibitors, including one bioactive compound, ebselen, which is currently in human clinical trials for a clinically unrelated indication. This drug showed activity against both major virulence factors, TcdA and TcdB, in biochemical and cell-based studies. Treatment in a mouse model of CDI that closely resembles the human infection confirmed a therapeutic benefit in the form of reduced disease pathology in host tissues that correlated with inhibition of the release of the toxic glucosyltransferase domain (GTD). Our results show that this non-antibiotic drug can modulate the pathology of disease and therefore could potentially be developed as a therapeutic for the treatment of CDI.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/scitranslmed.aac9103

    View details for PubMedID 26400909

  • Metabolome progression during early gut microbial colonization of gnotobiotic mice. Scientific reports Marcobal, A., Yusufaly, T., Higginbottom, S., Snyder, M., Sonnenburg, J. L., Mias, G. I. 2015; 5: 11589-?


    The microbiome has been implicated directly in host health, especially host metabolic processes and development of immune responses. These are particularly important in infants where the gut first begins being colonized, and such processes may be modeled in mice. In this investigation we follow longitudinally the urine metabolome of ex-germ-free mice, which are colonized with two bacterial species, Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron and Bifidobacterium longum. High-throughput mass spectrometry profiling of urine samples revealed dynamic changes in the metabolome makeup, associated with the gut bacterial colonization, enabled by our adaptation of non-linear time-series analysis to urine metabolomics data. Results demonstrate both gradual and punctuated changes in metabolite production and that early colonization events profoundly impact the nature of small molecules circulating in the host. The identified small molecules are implicated in amino acid and carbohydrate metabolic processes, and offer insights into the dynamic changes occurring during the colonization process, using high-throughput longitudinal methodology.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/srep11589

    View details for PubMedID 26118551

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4484351

  • Genetically dictated change in host mucus carbohydrate landscape exerts a diet-dependent effect on the gut microbiota PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Kashyap, P. C., Marcobal, A., Ursell, L. K., Smits, S. A., Sonnenburg, E. D., Costello, E. K., Higginbottom, S. K., Domino, S. E., Holmes, S. P., Relman, D. A., Knight, R., Gordon, J. I., Sonnenburg, J. L. 2013; 110 (42): 17059-17064


    We investigate how host mucus glycan composition interacts with dietary carbohydrate content to influence the composition and expressed functions of a human gut community. The humanized gnotobiotic mice mimic humans with a nonsecretor phenotype due to knockout of their α1-2 fucosyltransferase (Fut2) gene. The fecal microbiota of Fut2(-) mice that lack fucosylated host glycans show decreased alpha diversity relative to Fut2(+) mice and exhibit significant differences in community composition. A glucose-rich plant polysaccharide-deficient (PD) diet exerted a strong effect on the microbiota membership but eliminated the effect of Fut2 genotype. Additionally fecal metabolites predicted host genotype in mice on a polysaccharide-rich standard diet but not on a PD diet. A more detailed mechanistic analysis of these interactions involved colonization of gnotobiotic Fut2(+) and Fut2(-) mice with Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a prominent member of the human gut microbiota known to adaptively forage host mucosal glycans when dietary polysaccharides are absent. Within Fut2(-) mice, the B. thetaiotaomicron fucose catabolic pathway was markedly down-regulated, whereas BT4241-4247, an operon responsive to terminal β-galactose, the precursor that accumulates in the Fut2(-) mice, was significantly up-regulated. These changes in B. thetaiotaomicron gene expression were only evident in mice fed a PD diet, wherein B. thetaiotaomicron relies on host mucus consumption. Furthermore, up-regulation of the BT4241-4247 operon was also seen in humanized Fut2(-) mice. Together, these data demonstrate that differences in host genotype that affect the carbohydrate landscape of the distal gut interact with diet to alter the composition and function of resident microbes in a diet-dependent manner.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1306070110

    View details for Web of Science ID 000325634200076

    View details for PubMedID 24062455

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3800993

  • Microbiota-liberated host sugars facilitate post-antibiotic expansion of enteric pathogens. Nature Ng, K. M., Ferreyra, J. A., Higginbottom, S. K., Lynch, J. B., Kashyap, P. C., Gopinath, S., Naidu, N., Choudhury, B., Weimer, B. C., Monack, D. M., Sonnenburg, J. L. 2013; 502 (7469): 96-99


    The human intestine, colonized by a dense community of resident microbes, is a frequent target of bacterial pathogens. Undisturbed, this intestinal microbiota provides protection from bacterial infections. Conversely, disruption of the microbiota with oral antibiotics often precedes the emergence of several enteric pathogens. How pathogens capitalize upon the failure of microbiota-afforded protection is largely unknown. Here we show that two antibiotic-associated pathogens, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (S. typhimurium) and Clostridium difficile, use a common strategy of catabolizing microbiota-liberated mucosal carbohydrates during their expansion within the gut. S. typhimurium accesses fucose and sialic acid within the lumen of the gut in a microbiota-dependent manner, and genetic ablation of the respective catabolic pathways reduces its competitiveness in vivo. Similarly, C. difficile expansion is aided by microbiota-induced elevation of sialic acid levels in vivo. Colonization of gnotobiotic mice with a sialidase-deficient mutant of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a model gut symbiont, reduces free sialic acid levels resulting in C. difficile downregulating its sialic acid catabolic pathway and exhibiting impaired expansion. These effects are reversed by exogenous dietary administration of free sialic acid. Furthermore, antibiotic treatment of conventional mice induces a spike in free sialic acid and mutants of both Salmonella and C. difficile that are unable to catabolize sialic acid exhibit impaired expansion. These data show that antibiotic-induced disruption of the resident microbiota and subsequent alteration in mucosal carbohydrate availability are exploited by these two distantly related enteric pathogens in a similar manner. This insight suggests new therapeutic approaches for preventing diseases caused by antibiotic-associated pathogens.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature12503

    View details for PubMedID 23995682

  • Complex Interactions Among Diet, Gastrointestinal Transit, and Gut Microbiota in Humanized Mice GASTROENTEROLOGY Kashyap, P. C., Marcobal, A., Ursell, L. K., Larauche, M., Duboc, H., Earle, K. A., Sonnenburg, E. D., Ferreyra, J. A., Higginbottom, S. K., Million, M., Tache, Y., Pasricha, P. J., Knight, R., Farrugia, G., Sonnenburg, J. L. 2013; 144 (5): 967-977


    Diet has major effects on the intestinal microbiota, but the exact mechanisms that alter complex microbial communities have been difficult to elucidate. In addition to the direct influence that diet exerts on microbes, changes in microbiota composition and function can alter host functions such as gastrointestinal (GI) transit time, which in turn can further affect the microbiota.We investigated the relationships among diet, GI motility, and the intestinal microbiota using mice that are germ-free (GF) or humanized (ex-GF mice colonized with human fecal microbiota).Analysis of gut motility revealed that humanized mice fed a standard polysaccharide-rich diet had faster GI transit and increased colonic contractility compared with GF mice. Humanized mice with faster transit due to administration of polyethylene glycol or a nonfermentable cellulose-based diet had similar changes in gut microbiota composition, indicating that diet can modify GI transit, which then affects the composition of the microbial community. However, altered transit in mice fed a diet of fermentable fructooligosaccharide indicates that diet can change gut microbial function, which can affect GI transit.Based on studies in humanized mice, diet can affect GI transit through microbiota-dependent or microbiota-independent pathways, depending on the type of dietary change. The effect of the microbiota on transit largely depends on the amount and type (fermentable vs nonfermentable) of polysaccharides present in the diet. These results have implications for disorders that affect GI transit and gut microbial communities, including irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

    View details for DOI 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.01.047

    View details for Web of Science ID 000317813900026

    View details for PubMedID 23380084

  • Molecular Analysis of Model Gut Microbiotas by Imaging Mass Spectrometry and Nanodesorption Electrospray Ionization Reveals Dietary Metabolite Transformations ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY Rath, C. M., Alexandrov, T., Higginbottom, S. K., Song, J., Milla, M. E., Fischbach, M. A., Sonnenburg, J. L., Dorrestein, P. C. 2012; 84 (21): 9259-9267


    The communities constituting our microbiotas are emerging as mediators of the health-disease continuum. However, deciphering the functional impact of microbial communities on host pathophysiology represents a formidable challenge, due to the heterogeneous distribution of chemical and microbial species within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Herein, we apply imaging mass spectrometry (IMS) to localize metabolites from the interaction between the host and colonizing microbiota. This approach complements other molecular imaging methodologies in that analytes need not be known a priori, offering the possibility of untargeted analysis. Localized molecules within the GI tract were then identified in situ by surface sampling with nanodesorption electrospray ionization Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance-mass spectrometry (nanoDESI FTICR-MS). Products from diverse structural classes were identified including cholesterol-derived lipids, glycans, and polar metabolites. Specific chemical transformations performed by the microbiota were validated with bacteria in culture. This study illustrates how untargeted spatial characterization of metabolites can be applied to the molecular dissection of complex biology in situ.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/ac302039u

    View details for Web of Science ID 000310664600055

    View details for PubMedID 23009651

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3711173

  • Specificity of Polysaccharide Use in Intestinal Bacteroides Species Determines Diet-Induced Microbiota Alterations CELL Sonnenburg, E. D., Zheng, H., Joglekar, P., Higginbottom, S. K., Firbank, S. J., Bolam, D. N., Sonnenburg, J. L. 2010; 141 (7): 1241-U256


    The intestinal microbiota impacts many facets of human health and is associated with human diseases. Diet impacts microbiota composition, yet mechanisms that link dietary changes to microbiota alterations remain ill-defined. Here we elucidate the basis of Bacteroides proliferation in response to fructans, a class of fructose-based dietary polysaccharides. Structural and genetic analysis disclosed a fructose-binding, hybrid two-component signaling sensor that controls the fructan utilization locus in Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron. Gene content of this locus differs among Bacteroides species and dictates the specificity and breadth of utilizable fructans. BT1760, an extracellular beta2-6 endo-fructanase, distinguishes B. thetaiotaomicron genetically and functionally, and enables the use of the beta2-6-linked fructan levan. The genetic and functional differences between Bacteroides species are predictive of in vivo competitiveness in the presence of dietary fructans. Gene sequences that distinguish species' metabolic capacity serve as potential biomarkers in microbiomic datasets to enable rational manipulation of the microbiota via diet.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2010.05.005

    View details for Web of Science ID 000279148100020

    View details for PubMedID 20603004

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2900928