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Colonic Bacteroides are positively associated with trabecular bone structure and programmed by maternal vitamin D in male but not female offspring in an obesogenic environment

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The gut microbiota is determined early in life, possibly including pregnancy. Pioneering data suggests vitamin D, a nutrient important for bone health, affects this microbiota. We found that high maternal vitamin D lowered circulating lipopolysaccharide, improved intestinal barrier and bone health in male but not female offspring in an obesogenic environment. This study determined if high maternal dietary vitamin D programs Bacteroides and Prevotella and whether this associates with bone mineral content, density and structure of male and female adult offspring fed an obesogenic diet.


C57BL/6J females received an AIN93G diet with high or low vitamin D from before mating until weaning. Post-weaning, male and female offspring remained on their respective vitamin D level or were switched and fed a high fat and sucrose diet until sacrifice (age 7 months). Bacteroides and Prevotella were quantified in dams’ feces and offspring colonic contents. Lipopolysaccharide concentrations, bone mineral density and content, strength and structure data was integrated from our previous studies in the same mice. Spearman correlations were completed between Bacteroides and lipopolysaccharide, and bone outcomes.


There was a maternal vitamin D effect on colonic Bacteroides but not Prevotella (Dam diet: <0.001 and 0.735) in adult male offspring, independent of dams fecal Bacteroides before birth (P=0.998). In males, but not females, Bacteroides correlated with lipopolysaccharide (r=−0.488, P=0.018), trabecular femur peak load (r=0.362, P=0.033), vertebral trabecular separation (r=−0.605, P=0.006), trabecular number (r=0.614, P=0.005) and bone volume fraction (r=0.549, P=0.015).


Dietary vitamin D programs Bacteroides in male adult offspring only, which correlated negatively with systemic inflammation and positively with bone strength and structure. This may have implications on maternal diet and nutritional guidelines targeting sexes in a different manner.

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Author information


  1. Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON

    • C R Villa
    • , A Taibi
    • , J Chen
    • , W E Ward
    •  & E M Comelli
  2. Department of Kinesiology, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, Brock University, St Catharines, ON

    • W E Ward
  3. The Joannah and Brian Lawson Centre for Child Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON

    • E M Comelli


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to E M Comelli.