Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

The genetic background is shaping cecal enlargement in the absence of intestinal microbiota

Germ-free (GF) rodents have become a valuable tool for studying the role of intestinal microbes on the host physiology. The major characteristic of GF rodents is an enlarged cecum. The accumulation of mucopolysaccharides, digestion enzymes and water in the intestinal lumen drives this phenotype. Microbial colonization normalizes the cecum size in ex-GF animals. However, whether strain genetics influences the cecal enlargement is unknown. Here we investigated the impact of mouse genetic background on the cecal size in five GF strains frequently used in biomedical research. The cecal weight of GF mice on B6 background (B6J and B6N) represented up to 20% of total body weight. GF NMRI and BALBc mice showed an intermediate phenotype of 5–10%, and those on the C3H background of up to 5%. Reduced cecal size in GF C3H mice correlated with decreased water content, increased expression of water transporters, and reduced production of acidic mucins, but was independent of the level of digestive enzymes in the lumen. In contrast, GF B6J mice with greatly enlarged cecum showed increased water content and a distinct metabolic profile characterized by altered amino acid and bile acid metabolism, and increased acidic mucin production. Together, our results show that genetic background influences the cecal enlargement by regulating the water transport, production of acidic mucins, and metabolic profiles.

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