Obesity has been on the rise in the US and worldwide for the last several decades. Obesity has been associated with chronic disease development, such as certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and liver diseases. Previously, we reported that obesity promotes DMBA-induced mammary tumor development using the obese Zucker rat model. The intestinal microbiota is composed of a diverse population of obligate and facultative anaerobic microorganisms, and these organisms carry out a broad range of metabolic activities. Obesity has been linked to changes in the intestinal microbiota, but the composition of the bacterial populations in lean and obese Zucker rats has not been carefully studied. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the effects of obesity on the gut microbiota in this model. Lean and obese female Zucker rats (n = 16) were fed an AIN-93G-like diet for 8 weeks. Rats were weighed twice weekly, and fecal samples were collected at the beginning and end of the experiment. 16S rRNA gene sequencing was used to evaluate the composition of the fecal bacterial populations. At the outset of the study, the lean rats exhibited much lower ratios of the Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes phyla than the obese rats, but after 60 days, this ratio in the lean rats exceeded that of the obese. This shift was associated with reductions in the Bacteroidaceae, S24-7 and Paraprevotellaceae families in the lean rats. Obese rats also showed increased levels of the genus Akkermansia at day 60. PCoA plots of beta diversity showed clustering of the different test groups, indicating clear differences in intestinal microbiota populations associated with both the time point of the study and the lean or obese status in the Zucker rat model for obesity.
Hakkak, R., Korourian, S., Foley, S. L., & Erickson, B. D. (2017). Assessment of gut microbiota populations in lean and obese Zucker rats. PLoS ONE, 12(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181451