Article

Colonic transit time is related to bacterial metabolism and mucosal turnover in the gut

  • Nature Microbiology 1, Article number: 16093 (2016)
  • doi:10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.93
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Abstract

Little is known about how colonic transit time relates to human colonic metabolism and its importance for host health, although a firm stool consistency, a proxy for a long colonic transit time, has recently been positively associated with gut microbial richness. Here, we show that colonic transit time in humans, assessed using radio-opaque markers, is associated with overall gut microbial composition, diversity and metabolism. We find that a long colonic transit time associates with high microbial richness and is accompanied by a shift in colonic metabolism from carbohydrate fermentation to protein catabolism as reflected by higher urinary levels of potentially deleterious protein-derived metabolites. Additionally, shorter colonic transit time correlates with metabolites possibly reflecting increased renewal of the colonic mucosa. Together, this suggests that a high gut microbial richness does not per se imply a healthy gut microbial ecosystem and points at colonic transit time as a highly important factor to consider in microbiome and metabolomics studies.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank K.V. Vibefelt for helping out with DNA extraction and N. Bicen for performing the PCR and sequencing. The sequencing was carried out by the DTU in-house facility (DTU Multi-Assay Core, DMAC), Technical University of Denmark. This work was funded by the Danish Council for Strategic Research (grant no. 11-116163; Center for Gut, Grain and Greens), by the Technical University of Denmark and by the personal Danisco Award (to T.R.L.). The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research is an independent research centre at the University of Copenhagen and is partly funded by an unrestricted donation from the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, DK-2860 Søborg, Denmark

    • Henrik M. Roager
    • , Martin I. Bahl
    • , Henrik L. Frandsen
    • , Vera Carvalho
    •  & Tine R. Licht
  2. Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark, DK-2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark

    • Lea B. S. Hansen
    • , Marlene D. Dalgaard
    • , Damian R. Plichta
    • , Thomas Sicheritz-Pontén
    • , H. Bjørn Nielsen
    •  & Ramneek Gupta
  3. The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, Section of Metabolic Genetics, University of Copenhagen, DK-2200 København N, Denmark

    • Rikke J. Gøbel
    • , Henrik Vestergaard
    • , Torben Hansen
    •  & Oluf Pedersen
  4. Department of Radiology, Bispebjerg Hospital, DK-2400 København NV, Denmark

    • Morten H. Sparholt
  5. Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sport, University of Copenhagen, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark

    • Lotte Lauritzen
    •  & Mette Kristensen

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Contributions

M.I.B., R.J.G., H.V., T.H., T.S.-P., O.P., L.L., M.K., R.G. and T.R.L. assembled the cohort and developed protocols and infrastructure to obtain the biological samples and clinical metadata. M.H.S. measured the colonic transit time. L.B.S.H., V.C. and M.D.D. prepared the faecal samples, extracted DNA and performed 16S rRNA gene sequencing. L.B.S.H. performed the 16S data analyses, with contributions from V.C. H.M.R. and H.L.F. prepared the urine samples, performed the urine metabolic profiling and identified the urinary metabolites. H.M.R. performed the statistical correlation analyses with contributions from L.B.S.H., D.R.P. and H.B.N. H.M.R., M.I.B., H.B.N., L.B.S.H., T.S.-P., R.G., M.K. and T.R.L. interpreted the data. H.M.R. and T.R.L. wrote the manuscript and all authors read, revised and approved the final manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tine R. Licht.

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    Supplementary information

    Supplementary Tables 1-6, Supplementary Figures 1-14 and Supplementary References.