The bamboo-eating giant panda harbors a carnivore-like gut microbiota, with excessive seasonal variations.
Bottom Line: It lives on a bamboo-dominated diet at present, but it still retains a typical carnivorous digestive system and is genetically deficient in cellulose-digesting enzymes.Unlike other herbivores that have successfully evolved anatomically specialized digestive systems to efficiently deconstruct fibrous plant matter, the giant panda still retains a gastrointestinal tract typical of carnivores.It also shows an overall composition typical of bears and entirely differentiated from other herbivores, with low levels of putative cellulose-digesting bacteria.
Affiliation: State Key Laboratory of Microbial Metabolism, School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.Show MeSH
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Mentions: The remarkable changes in the diversity and composition of the giant panda gut microbiota across individuals and seasons led us to assess the extent of interindividual structural variations within each season and intraindividual variations across seasons. While the diversity was lower in T3 (Fig. 2C and D), the interindividual weighted UniFrac distances between different individuals increased significantly in this sampling season (Fig. 3A). This giant panda population also manifested dramatic intraindividual variations from T1/T2 to T3, which were significantly larger than that from T1 to T2. Notably, the intraindividual variations from T1/T2 to T3 were even higher than the interindividual variations within T1 and T2 (Fig. 3A). The principal coordinate analysis (PCoA)-based trajectory plot also revealed that the gut microbiota structure of each individual became more and more dissimilar over seasons (Fig. 3B). Moreover, such seasonal structural shifts seemed individual specific, resulting in a “radial” trajectory pattern (Fig. 3B). Such large interindividual and even larger intraindividual structural variations were also supported by the unweighted UniFrac distances, which concern only the occurrence of phylotypes rather than their abundance (see Fig. S3A and B in the supplemental material). These significant changes in the gut microbiota structure from T1 to T3 were also verified by permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMANOVA; P = 0.0001 for both the weighted and unweighted UniFrac distances) (30).
Affiliation: State Key Laboratory of Microbial Metabolism, School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.