Caspase-deficient mice and wild-type (WT) mice show significant differences in their gut microbiota composition. These differences coincide with the observation that caspase-3–deficient mice carrying a natural caspase-11 mutation (Casp3/11−/−) are less sensitive to acute dextran sodium sulfate-induced colitis than WT mice. For these reasons, we investigated the role of the microbiota in the development of colitis by cohousing WT and Casp3/11−/− mice. Microbial community fingerprinting by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis revealed that the similarities in gut microbial composition of WT and Casp3/11−/− mice increased after cohousing. In the acute dextran sodium sulfate-induced colitis model, Casp3/11−/− mice that were cohoused with WT mice showed increased weight loss and disease activity scores and increased neutrophil infiltration and inflammatory cytokine levels in their colon tissue compared with Casp3/11−/− mice that were not cohoused with WT mice. Also, we demonstrate that only the microbiota of the Casp3/11−/− mice cohoused with WT mice showed an important increase in Prevotella species. In conclusion, our cohousing experiments revealed that the colitogenic activity of the WT microbiota is transferable to Casp3/11−/− mice and that Prevotella species are likely to be involved. By contrast, the relative protection of Casp3/11−/− mice against dextran sodium sulfate damage is not transferred to WT mice after cohousing. These results underscore the need for in-depth studies of the bilateral interaction of host genes and microbiota to gain insight into the mechanisms of disease pathogenesis. Our findings also have important implications for the experimental design of disease studies in genetically modified mice and conclusions drawn from them.
Article first published online 7 October 2013
*Department for Molecular Biomedical Research, VIB, Ghent, Belgium;
†Department of Biomedical Molecular Biology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium;
‡Laboratory of Microbiology, Faculty of Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium;
§Department of Structural Biology, VIB, Brussels, Belgium;
‖Department of Bioscience Engineering, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium; and
¶BCCM/LMG Bacteria Collection, Faculty of Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
Reprints: Peter Vandenabeele, PhD, Department for Molecular Biomedical Research, VIB, Ghent University, Technologiepark 927, 9052 Zwijnaarde, Ghent, Belgium (e-mail: email@example.com).
Supported by Ghent University (MRP, GROUP-ID), VIB, FWO-Vlaanderen (G.0875.11, G.0973.11, G.0A45.12N), Federal Research Programme (IAP 7/32), the Euregional PACTII. PV holds a Methusalem grant (BOF09/01M00709) from the Flemish Government.
A. Becker is supported by the Special Research Fund of Ghent University (Belgium). F. Hildebrand and J. Raes are supported by the Institute for the encouragement of Scientific Research and Innovation of Brussels (ISRIB) and the Odysseus programme of the FWO. The remaining authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Received June 26, 2013
Accepted August 7, 2013