Evidence of cellulose metabolism by the giant panda gut microbiome.
ABSTRACT: The giant panda genome codes for all necessary enzymes associated with a carnivorous digestive system but lacks genes for enzymes needed to digest cellulose, the principal component of their bamboo diet. It has been posited that this iconic species must therefore possess microbial symbionts capable of metabolizing cellulose, but these symbionts have remained undetected. Here we examined 5,522 prokaryotic ribosomal RNA gene sequences in wild and captive giant panda fecal samples. We found lower species richness of the panda microbiome than of mammalian microbiomes for herbivores and nonherbivorous carnivores. We detected 13 operational taxonomic units closely related to Clostridium groups I and XIVa, both of which contain taxa known to digest cellulose. Seven of these 13 operational taxonomic units were unique to pandas compared with other mammals. Metagenomic analysis using ~37-Mbp contig sequences from gut microbes recovered putative genes coding two cellulose-digesting enzymes and one hemicellulose-digesting enzyme, cellulase, ?-glucosidase, and xylan 1,4-?-xylosidase, in Clostridium group I. Comparing glycoside hydrolase profiles of pandas with those of herbivores and omnivores, we found a moderate abundance of oligosaccharide-degrading enzymes for pandas (36%), close to that for humans (37%), and the lowest abundance of cellulases and endohemicellulases (2%), which may reflect low digestibility of cellulose and hemicellulose in the panda's unique bamboo diet. The presence of putative cellulose-digesting microbes, in combination with adaptations related to feeding, physiology, and morphology, show that giant pandas have evolved a number of traits to overcome the anatomical and physiological challenge of digesting a diet high in fibrous matter.
Project description:Bamboo-eating giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is an enigmatic species, which possesses a carnivore-like short and simple gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Despite the remarkable studies on giant panda, its diet adaptability status continues to be a matter of debate. To resolve this puzzle, we investigated the functional potential of the giant panda gut microbiome using shotgun metagenomic sequencing of fecal samples. We also compared our data with similar data from other animal species representing herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores from current and earlier studies. We found that the giant panda hosts a bear-like gut microbiota distinct from those of herbivores indicated by the metabolic potential of the microbiome in the gut of giant pandas and other mammals. Furthermore, the relative abundance of genes involved in cellulose- and hemicellulose-digestion, and enrichment of enzymes associated with pathways of amino acid degradation and biosynthetic reactions in giant pandas echoed a carnivore-like microbiome. Most significantly, the enzyme assay of the giant panda's feces indicated the lowest cellulase and xylanase activity among major herbivores, shown by an in-vitro experimental assay of enzyme activity for cellulose and hemicellulose-degradation. All of our results consistently indicate that the giant panda is not specialized to digest cellulose and hemicellulose from its bamboo diet, making the giant panda a good mammalian model to study the unusual link between the gut microbiome and diet. The increased food intake of the giant pandas might be a strategy to compensate for the gut microbiome functions, highlighting a strong need of conservation of the native bamboo forest both in high- and low-altitude ranges to meet the great demand of bamboo diet of giant pandas.
Project description:Gut microbes can enhance the ability of hosts to consume secondary plant compounds and, therefore, expand the dietary niche breadth of mammalian herbivores. The giant and red pandas are bamboo-eating specialists within the mammalian order Carnivora. Bamboo contains abundant plant secondary metabolites (e.g., cyanide-containing compounds). However, Carnivora species, including the giant panda, have deficient levels of rhodanese (one of the essential cyanide detoxification enzymes) in their tissues compared with the same tissues of herbivores. Here, we make a comparative analysis of 94 gut metagenomes, including 25 from bamboo-eating pandas (19 from giant pandas and 6 from red pandas), 30 from Père David's deer, and 39 from published data for other mammals. The bamboo-eating pandas' gut microbiomes had some common features, such as high proportions of Pseudomonas bacteria. The results revealed that bamboo-eating pandas' gut microbiomes were significantly enriched in putative genes coding for enzymes related to cyanide degradation (e.g., rhodanese) compared with the gut microbiomes of typical herbivorous mammals, which might have coevolved with their special bamboo diets. The enrichment of putative cyanide-digesting gut microbes, in combination with adaptations related to morphology (e.g., pseudothumbs) and genomic signatures, show that the giant panda and red panda have evolved some common traits to adapt to their bamboo diet.IMPORTANCE The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and red panda (Ailurus fulgens), two obligate bamboo feeders, have distinct phylogenetic positions in the order Carnivora. Bamboo is extraordinarily rich in plant secondary metabolites, such as allied phenolic and polyphenolic compounds and even toxic cyanide compounds. Here, the enrichment of putative cyanide-digesting gut microbes, in combination with adaptations related to morphology (e.g., pseudothumbs) and genomic signatures, show that the giant panda and red panda have evolved some common traits to adapt to their bamboo diet. Thus, here is another story of diet-driven gut microbiota in nature.
Project description:UNLABELLED:The giant panda evolved from omnivorous bears. It lives on a bamboo-dominated diet at present, but it still retains a typical carnivorous digestive system and is genetically deficient in cellulose-digesting enzymes. To find out whether this endangered mammalian species, like other herbivores, has successfully developed a gut microbiota adapted to its fiber-rich diet, we conducted a 16S rRNA gene-based large-scale structural profiling of the giant panda fecal microbiota. Forty-five captive individuals were sampled in spring, summer, and late autumn within 1 year. Significant intraindividual variations in the diversity and structure of gut microbiota across seasons were observed in this population, which were even greater than the variations between individuals. Compared with published data sets involving 124 gut microbiota profiles from 54 mammalian species, these giant pandas, together with 9 captive and 7 wild individuals investigated previously, showed extremely low gut microbiota diversity and an overall structure that diverged from those of nonpanda herbivores but converged with those of carnivorous and omnivorous bears. The giant panda did not harbor putative cellulose-degrading phylotypes such as Ruminococcaceae and Bacteroides bacteria that are typically enriched in other herbivores, but instead, its microbiota was dominated by Escherichia/Shigella and Streptococcus bacteria. Members of the class Clostridia were common and abundant in the giant panda gut microbiota, but most of the members present were absent in other herbivores and were not phylogenetically related with known cellulolytic lineages. Therefore, the giant panda appears not to have evolved a gut microbiota compatible with its newly adopted diet, which may adversely influence the coevolutionary fitness of this herbivore. IMPORTANCE:The giant panda, an endangered mammalian species endemic to western China, is well known for its unique bamboo diet. Unlike other herbivores that have successfully evolved anatomically specialized digestive systems to efficiently deconstruct fibrous plant matter, the giant panda still retains a gastrointestinal tract typical of carnivores. We characterized the fecal bacterial communities from a giant panda population to determine whether this animal relies on its symbiotic gut microbiota to cope with the complex carbohydrates that dominate its diet, as is common in other herbivores. We found that the giant panda gut microbiota is low in diversity and highly variable across seasons. It also shows an overall composition typical of bears and entirely differentiated from other herbivores, with low levels of putative cellulose-digesting bacteria. The gut microbiota of this herbivore, therefore, may not have well adapted to its highly fibrous diet, suggesting a potential link with its poor digestive efficiency.
Project description:The giant panda feeds almost exclusively on bamboo, a diet highly enriched in lignin and cellulose, but is characterized by a digestive tract similar to carnivores. It is still large unknown if and how the giant panda gut microbiota contributes to lignin and cellulose degradation. Here we show the giant pandas' gut microbiota does not significantly contribute to cellulose and lignin degradation. We found that no operational taxonomic unit had a nearest neighbor identified as a cellulolytic species or strain with a significant higher abundance in juvenile than cubs, a very low abundance of putative lignin and cellulose genes existed in part of analyzing samples but a significant higher abundance of genes involved in starch and hemicellulose degradation in juveniles than cubs. Moreover, a significant lower abundance of putative cellulolytic genes and a significant higher abundance of putative α-amylase and hemicellulase gene families were present in giant pandas than in omnivores or herbivores.
Project description:Giant pandas consume different structural parts of bamboo (shoots, leaves and culms) during different seasons. Previous research showed different bamboo parts have varying nutritional content and that a long-term diet consisting of a single part of bamboo resulted in remarkable metabolic changes within captive giant pandas. However, the effects on the gut microbiome of giant pandas, as a result of a single bamboo part diet, have not been investigated. Here, we evaluated the changes in gut microbial communities based on single bamboo part diets and their potential implications by using 16S rRNA gene-based amplicon sequencing and metagenome shotgun sequencing. We found that the composition and function of the gut microbiome from captive giant pandas fed exclusively culms were significantly different from that of individuals fed shoots or leaves. During the culm feeding period, the gut microbiome showed strongest digestive capabilities for cellulose, hemicellulose and starch, and had the highest potential abilities for the biosynthesis of bile acids, fatty acids and amino acids. This suggests the microbiome aids in breaking down culm, which is more difficult for giant pandas to digest, as a means to compensate for the nutrient poor content of the culm. Genes related to fatty acid metabolism and tricarboxylic acid cycle enzymes were more abundant during the leaf stage diet than that in the shoot and culm stages. Thus, the microbiome may help giant pandas, which typically have low lipase levels, with fat digestion. These results illustrate that adaptive changes in the gut microbiome community and function may be an important mechanism to aid giant panda digestion when consuming different structural parts of bamboo.
Project description:The gut microbiota diversity of eight panda cubs was assessed during a dietary switch.Gut microbiota diversity of panda cubs significantly decreased after bamboo consumption.Carnivorous species living on a plant-based diet possess low microbial diversity.Mice were fed a bamboo diet but did not display low gut microbiota diversity.Giant pandas have an exclusive diet of bamboo; however, their gut microbiotas are more similar to carnivores than herbivores in terms of bacterial composition and their functional potential. This is inconsistent with observations that typical herbivores possess highly diverse gut microbiotas. It is unclear why the gut bacterial diversity of giant pandas is so low. Herein, the dynamic variations in the gut microbiota of eight giant panda cubs were measured using 16S rRNA gene paired-end sequencing during a dietary switch. Similar data from red panda (an herbivorous carnivore) and carnivorous species were compared with that of giant pandas. In addition, mice were fed a high-bamboo diet (80% bamboo and 20% rat feed) to determine whether a bamboo diet could lower the gut bacterial diversity in a non-carnivorous digestive tract. The diversity of giant panda gut microbiotas decreased significantly after switching from milk and complementary food to bamboo diet. Carnivorous species living on a plant-based diet, including giant and red pandas, possess a lower microbial diversity than other carnivore species. Mouse gut microbiota diversity significantly increased after adding high-fibre bamboo to their diet. Findings suggest that a very restricted diet (bamboo) within a carnivorous digestive system might be critical for shaping a low gut bacterial diversity in giant pandas.
Project description:Adaptation to a bamboo diet is an essential process for giant panda growth, and gut microbes play an important role in the digestion of the polysaccharides in bamboo. The dietary transition in giant panda cubs is particularly complex, but it is an ideal period in which to study the effects of gut microbes on polysaccharide use because their main food changes from milk to bamboo (together with some bamboo shoot and coarse pastry). Here, we used 16S rDNA and internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) DNA sequencing and metagenomic sequencing analysis to investigate the succession of the gut microbial structure in feces sampled from twin giant panda cubs during the completely dietary transition and determine the abundances of polysaccharide-metabolizing genes and their corresponding microbes to better understand the degradation of bamboo polysaccharides. Successive changes in the gut microbial diversity and structure were apparent in the growth of pandas during dietary shift process. Microbial diversity increased after the introduction of supplementary foods and then varied in a complex way for 1.5-2 years as bamboo and complex food components were introduced. They then stabilized after 2 years, when the cubs consumed a specialized bamboo diet. The microbes had more potential to metabolize the cellulose in bamboo than the hemicellulose, providing genes encoding cellulase systems corresponding to glycoside hydrolases (GHs; such as GH1, GH3, GH5, GH8, GH9, GH74, and GH94). The cellulose-metabolizing species (or genes) of gut bacteria was more abundant than that of gut fungi. Although cellulose-metabolizing species did not predominate in the gut bacterial community, microbial interactions allowed the giant pandas to achieve the necessary dietary shift and ultimately adapt to a bamboo diet.
Project description:The functional adaptive changes in cyanide detoxification in giant panda appear to be response to dietary transition from typical carnivore to herbivorous bear. We tested the absorption of cyanide contained in bamboo/bamboo shoots with a feeding trial in 20 adult giant pandas. We determined total cyanide content in bamboo shoots and giant panda's feces, levels of urinary thiocyanate and tissue rhodanese activity using color reactions with a spectrophotometer. Rhodanese expression in liver and kidney at transcription and translation levels were measured using real-time RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry, respectively. We compared differences of rhodanese activity and gene expressions among giant panda, rabbit (herbivore) and cat (carnivore), and between newborn and adult giant pandas. Bamboo shoots contained 3.2?mg/kg of cyanide and giant pandas absorbed more than 65% of cyanide. However, approximately 80% of absorbed cyanide was metabolized to less toxic thiocyanate that was discharged in urine. Rhodanese expression and activity in liver and kidney of giant panda were significantly higher than in cat, but lower than in rabbit (all P?<?0.05). Levels in adult pandas were higher than that in newborn cub. Phylogenetic analysis of both nucleotide and amino acid sequences of the rhodanese gene supported a closer relationship of giant panda with carnivores than with herbivores.
Project description:Taste 2 receptors (TAS2R) mediate bitterness perception in mammals, thus are called bitter taste receptors. It is believed that these genes evolved in response to species-specific diets. The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and red panda (Ailurus fulgens styani) in the order Carnivora are specialized herbivores with an almost exclusive bamboo diet (>90% bamboo). Because bamboo is full of bitter tasting compounds, we hypothesized that adaptive evolution has occurred at TAS2R genes in giant and red pandas throughout the course of their dietary shift. Here, we characterized 195 TAS2R genes in 9 Carnivora species and examined selective pressures on these genes. We found that both pandas harbor more putative functional TAS2R genes than other carnivores, and pseudogenized TAS2R genes in the giant panda are different from the red panda. The purifying selection on TAS2R1, TAS2R9 and TAS2R38 in the giant panda, and TAS2R62 in the red panda, has been strengthened throughout the course of adaptation to bamboo diet, while selective constraint on TAS2R4 and TAS2R38 in the red panda is relaxed. Remarkably, a few positively selected sites on TAS2R42 have been specifically detected in the giant panda. These results suggest an adaptive response in both pandas to a dietary shift from carnivory to herbivory, and TAS2R genes evolved independently in the 2 pandas. Our findings provide new insight into the molecular basis of mammalian sensory evolution and the process of adaptation to new ecological niches.
Project description:The red panda is the only living species of the genus Ailurus. Like giant pandas, red pandas are also highly specialized to feed mainly on highly fibrous bamboo. Although several studies have focused on the gut microbiota in the giant panda, little is known about the gut microbiota of the red panda. In this study, we characterized the fecal microbiota from both wild (n?=?16) and captive (n?=?6) red pandas using a pyrosequecing based approach targeting the V1-V3 hypervariable regions of the 16S rRNA gene. Distinct bacterial communities were observed between the two groups based on both membership and structure. Wild red pandas maintained significantly higher community diversity, richness and evenness than captive red pandas, the communities of which were skewed and dominated by taxa associated with Firmicutes. Phylogenetic analysis of the top 50 OTUs revealed that 10 of them were related to known cellulose degraders. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study of the gut microbiota of the red panda. Our data suggest that, similar to the giant panda, the gut microbiota in the red panda might also play important roles in the digestion of bamboo.