Ecotoxicology inside the gut: impact of heavy metals on the mouse microbiome

The gut microbiota is critical for intestinal homeostasis. Recent studies have revealed the links between different types of dysbiosis and diseases inside and outside the intestine.

Environmental exposure to pollutants (such as heavy metals) can also impair various physiological functions for good health. Here, we studied the impact of up to 8 weeks of oral lead and cadmium ingestion on the composition of the murine intestinal microbiome.

Results: Pyrosequencing of 16S RNA sequences revealed minor but specific changes in bacterial commensal communities (at both family and genus levels) following oral exposure to the heavy metals, with notably low numbers of Lachnospiraceae and high numbers levels of Lactobacillaceae and Erysipelotrichaceacae (mainly due to changes in Turicibacter spp), relative to control animals.

Conclusions: Non-absorbed heavy metals have a direct impact on the gut microbiota.

In turn, this may impact the alimentary tract and overall gut homeostasis. Our results may enable more accurate assessment of the risk of intestinal disease associated with heavy metal ingestion.

Published on: 2013-12-11

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