Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Inulin is a well-known fructose-based prebiotic which has been shown to stimulate the growth of bifidobacteria, a bacterial group generally considered beneficial for intestinal health. In the present study, we analyzed inulin-associated shifts in the total bacterial community of wild-type mice and mice carrying a genetically inactivated adenomatous polyposis coli tumor suppressor gene by using DNA-based approaches independent of bacterial culturability. Mice were fed a high-fat, nonfiber diet with or without inulin inclusion at a 10% (wt/wt) concentration. Cecal contents were analyzed after 0, 3, and 9 weeks on the experimental diets. Inulin inclusion significantly affected the total bacterial community structure of the cecum as determined by both a nonselective percent-guanine-plus-cytosine-based profiling analysis and a more specific 16S ribosomal DNA sequence analysis. The shifts included stimulation of bifidobacteria and suppression of clostridia, but sequence comparison revealed that the major shifts were within previously unknown bacterial taxa. Concomitantly, significantly higher bacterial densities, determined by How cytometry, were observed with the inulin-amended diet, and the metabolism of the cecal bacterial community was altered, as indicated by higher levels of residual short-chain fatty acids, particularly lactic acid. With regard to all of the microbiological parameters measured, the wild-type mice and mice carrying a genetically inactivated adenomatous polyposis coli tumor suppressor gene were essentially identical. Studies of the implications of pre- and probiotics may need to be expanded to include careful analysis of their effects on the entire microbial community, rather than just a few well-known species. Further studies are needed to increase our understanding of the possible roles of currently unknown gastrointestinal bacteria in health and disease.