New PNAS paper from the Sonnenburg lab about mucus glycans and the microbiota.
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.