, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 883-892
Date: 13 May 2012

Genetic modification of iron metabolism in mice affects the gut microbiota

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The composition of the gut microbiota is affected by environmental factors as well as host genetics. Iron is one of the important elements essential for bacterial growth, thus we hypothesized that changes in host iron homeostasis, may affect the luminal iron content of the gut and thereby the composition of intestinal bacteria. The iron regulatory protein 2 (Irp2) and one of the genes mutated in hereditary hemochromatosis Hfe , are both proteins involved in the regulation of systemic iron homeostasis. To test our hypothesis, fecal metal content and a selected spectrum of the fecal microbiota were analyzed from Hfe−/−, Irp2−/− and their wild type control mice. Elevated levels of iron as well as other minerals in feces of Irp2−/− mice compared to wild type and Hfe−/− mice were observed. Interestingly significant variation in the general fecal-bacterial population-patterns was observed between Irp2−/− and Hfe−/− mice. Furthermore the relative abundance of five species, mainly lactic acid bacteria, was significantly different among the mouse lines. Lactobacillus (L.) murinus and L. intestinalis were highly abundant in Irp2−/− mice, Enterococcus faecium species cluster and a species most similar to Olsenella were highly abundant in Hfe-/- mice and L. johnsonii was highly abundant in the wild type mice. These results suggest that deletion of iron metabolism genes in the mouse host affects the composition of its intestinal bacteria. Further studying the relationship between gut microbiota and genetic mutations affecting systemic iron metabolism in human should lead to clinical implications.