Microbial succession during wheat bran fermentation and colonisation by human faecal microbiota as a result of niche diversification.


Department of Biotechnology, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Center for Microbial Ecology and Technology (CMET), Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. [Email]


The human gut can be viewed as a flow-through system with a short residence time, a high turnover rate and a spatial gradient of physiological conditions. As a consequence, the gut microbiota is exposed to highly fluctuating environmental determinants presented by the host and diet. Here, we assessed the fermentation and colonisation of insoluble wheat bran by faecal microbiota of three individuals at an unprecedented sampling intensity. Time-resolved 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, revealed a dynamic microbial community, characterised by abrupt shifts in composition, delimiting states with a more constant community, giving rise to a succession of bacterial taxa alternately dominating the community over a 72 h timespan. Early stages were dominated by Enterobacteriaceae and Fusobacterium species, growing on the carbohydrate-low, protein rich medium to which wheat bran was supplemented. The onset of wheat bran fermentation, marked by a spike in short chain fatty acid production with an increasing butyrate proportion and an increased endo-1,4-β-xylanase activity, corresponded to donor-dependent proportional increases of Bacteroides ovatus/stercoris, Prevotella copri and Firmicutes species, which were strongly enriched in the bran-attached community. Literature and database searches provided novel insights into the metabolic and growth characteristics underlying the observed succession and colonisation, illustrating the potency of a time-resolved analysis to increase our understanding of gut microbiota dynamics upon dietary modulations.

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