Synbiotic-driven improvement of metabolic disturbances is associated with changes in the gut microbiome in diet-induced obese mice

Xinxin Ke, Alesia Walker, Sven-Bastiaan Haange, Ilias Lagkouvardos, Yuwen Liu, Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, Martin von Bergen, Nico Jehmlich, Xin He, Thomas Clavel, Peter C.K. Cheung

The gut microbiota are thought to play a key role in the regulation of host metabolism. Modulation of the gut microbiome may have beneficial effects on metabolism in obese individuals. Ke et al. tested interventions that modulate the gut microbiome and found that a combination of living bacteria and substances that promote their growth, called a synbiotic, improved metabolic disturbances in diet-induced obese mice. This was associated with changes in the gut microbiome which they characterized using a multi-omics approach.

Objective: The gut microbiota is an important influencing factor of metabolic health. Although dietary interventions with probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics can be effective means to regulate obesity and associated comorbidities, the underlying shifts in gut microbial communities, especially at the functional level, have not been characterized in great details. In this study, we sought to investigate the effects of synbiotics on the regulation of gut microbiota and the alleviation of high-fat diet (HFD)-induced metabolic disorders in mice.

Methods: Specific pathogen-free (SPF) male C57BL/6J mice were fed diets with either 10% (normal diet, ND) or 60% (high-fat diet, HFD) of total calories from fat (lard). Dietary interventions in the HFD-fed mice included (i) probiotic (Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis and Lactobacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei DSM 46331), (ii) prebiotic (oat β-glucan), and (iii) synbiotic (a mixture of i and ii) treatments for 12 weeks. Besides detailed characterization of host metabolic parameters, a multi-omics approach was used to systematically profile the microbial signatures at both the phylogenetic and functional levels using 16S rRNA gene sequencing, metaproteomics and targeted metabolomics analysis.

Results: The synbiotic intervention significantly reduced body weight gain and alleviated features of metabolic complications. At the phylogenetic level, the synbiotic treatment significantly reversed HFD-induced changes in microbial populations, both in terms of richness and the relative abundance of specific taxa. Potentially important species such as Faecalibaculum rodentium and Alistipes putredinis that might mediate the beneficial effects of the synbiotic were identified. At the functional level, short-chain fatty acid and bile acid profiles revealed that all dietary interventions significantly restored cecal levels of acetate, propionate, and butyrate, while the synbiotic treatment reduced the bile acid pools most efficiently. Metaproteomics revealed that the effects of the synbiotic intervention might be mediated through metabolic pathways involved in carbohydrate, amino acid, and energy metabolisms.

Conclusions: Our results suggested that dietary intervention using the novel synbiotic can alleviate HFD-induced weight gain and restore gut microbial ecosystem homeostasis phylogenetically and functionally.