According to the current insights, the predominant bacterial community in human feces is considered to be stable and unique for each individual over a prolonged period of time. In this study, the temporal stability of both the predominant population and a number of specific subpopulations of the fecal microbiota of four healthy volunteers was monitored for 6-12 weeks. For this purpose, a combination of different universal (V(3) and V(6)-V(8)) and genus- or group-specific (targeting the Bacteroides fragilis subgroup, the genera Bifidobacterium and Enterococcus and the Lactobacillus group, which also comprises the genera Leuconostoc, Pediococcus and Weisella) 16S rRNA gene primers was used. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) was used to analyze the 16S rRNA gene amplicons generating population fingerprints which were compared visually and by numerical analysis. DGGE profiles generated by universal primers were relatively stable over a three-month period and these profiles were grouped by numerical analysis in subject-specific clusters. In contrast, the genus- and group-specific primers yielded profiles with varying degrees of temporal stability. The Bacteroides fragilis subgroup and Bifidobacterium populations remained relatively stable which was also reflected by subject-specific profile clustering. The Lactobacillus group showed considerable variation even within a two-week period and resulted in complete loss of subject-grouping. The Enterococcus population was detectable by DGGE analysis in only half of the samples. In conclusion, numerical analysis of 16S rRNA gene-DGGE profiles clearly indicates that the predominant fecal microbiota is host-specific and relatively stable over a prolonged time period. However, some subpopulations tended to show temporal variations (e.g., the Lactobacillus group) whereas other autochthonous groups (e.g., the bifidobacteria and the Bacteroides fragilis subgroup) did not undergo major population shifts in time.
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