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Title: Microbiota Perturbation or Elimination Can Inhibit Normal Development and Elicit a Starvation-Like Response in an Omnivorous Model Invertebrate
ABSTRACT Omnivorous animals, including humans, harbor diverse, species-rich gut communities that impact their growth, development, and homeostasis. Model invertebrates are broadly accessible experimental platforms that enable linking specific species or species groups to host phenotypes, yet often their specialized diets and distinct gut microbiota make them less comparable to human and other mammalian and gut communities. The omnivorous cockroach Periplaneta americana harbors ∼4 × 10 2 bacterial genera within its digestive tract and is enriched with taxa commonly found in omnivorous mammals (i.e., Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes , and Firmicutes ). These features make P. americana a valuable platform for identifying microbe-mediated host phenotypes with potential translations to mammals. Rearing P. americana insects under germfree conditions resulted in prolonging development time by ∼30% and an up to ∼8% reduction in body size along three dimensions. Germfree rearing resulted in downregulation of gene networks involved in growth, energy homeostasis, and nutrient availability. Reintroduction of a defined microbiota comprised of a subset of P. americana commensals to germfree insects did not recover normal growth and developmental phenotypes or transcriptional profiles observed in conventionally reared insects. These results are in contrast with specialist-feeding model insects (e.g., Drosophila ), where introduction of a single endemic bacterial species to more » germfree condition-reared specimens recovered normal host phenotypes. These data suggest that understanding microbe-mediated host outcomes in animals with species-rich communities should include models that typically maintain similarly diverse microbiomes. The dramatic transcriptional, developmental, and morphological phenotypes linked to gut microbiome status in this study illustrates how microbes are key players in animal growth and evolution. IMPORTANCE Broadly accessible model organisms are essential for illustrating how microbes are engaged in the growth, development, and evolution of animals. We report that germfree rearing of omnivorous Periplaneta americana cockroaches resulted in growth defects and severely disrupted gene networks that regulate development, which highlights the importance of gut microbiota in these host processes. Absence of gut microbiota elicited a starvation-like transcriptional response in which growth and development were inhibited while nutrient scavenging was enhanced. Additionally, reintroduction of a subset of cockroach gut bacterial commensals did not broadly recover normal expression patterns, illustrating that a particular microbiome composition may be necessary for normal host development. Invertebrate microbiota model systems that enable disentangling complex, species-rich communities are essential for linking microbial taxa to specific host phenotypes. « less
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Klassen, Jonathan L.
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National Science Foundation
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