Age-associated microbiome shows the giant panda lives on hemicelluloses, not on cellulose.
ABSTRACT: 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:Adult giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) express transitional characteristics in that they consume bamboos, despite their carnivore-like digestive tracts. Their genome contains no cellulolytic enzymes; therefore, understanding the development of the giant panda gut microbiome, especially in early life, is important for decoding the rules underlying gut microbial formation, inheritance and dietary transitions. With deep metagenomic sequencing, we investigated the gut microbiomes of two newborn giant panda brothers and their parents living in Macao, China, from 2016 to 2017. Both giant panda cubs exhibited progressive increases in gut microbial richness during growth, particularly from the 6th month after birth. Enterobacteriaceae dominated the gut microbial compositions in both adult giant pandas and cubs. A total of 583 co-abundance genes (CAGs) and about 79 metagenomic species (MGS) from bacteria or viruses displayed significant changes with age. Seven genera (Shewanella, Oblitimonas, Helicobacter, Haemophilus, Aeromonas, Listeria, and Fusobacterium) showed great importance with respect to gut microbial structural determination in the nursing stage of giant panda cubs. Furthermore, 10 orthologous gene functions and 44 pathways showed significant changes with age. Of the significant pathways, 16 from Escherichia, Klebsiella, Propionibacterium, Lactobacillus, and Lactococcus displayed marked differences between parents and their cubs at birth, while 29 pathways from Escherichia, Campylobacter and Lactobacillus exhibited significant increase in cubs from 6 to 9 months of age. In addition, oxidoreductases, transferases, and hydrolases dominated the significantly changed gut microbial enzymes during the growth of giant panda cubs, while few of them were involved in cellulose degradation. The findings indicated diet-stimulated gut microbiome transitions and the important role of Enterobacteriaceae in the guts of giant panda in early life.
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: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: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: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:The giant pandas' (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) reproductive strategy is unique among mammals. Yet there are characteristics of giant panda behaviour we do not fully understand. Probably one of the least understood is the assumption that in captivity virtually all giant panda females rear only one cub when twins are born and abandon the other if given the chance. So far, only two females have raised twins simultaneously, but just with intensive human assistance. This case-study marks the first successful rearing of giant panda twins in captivity entirely by the mother. Using video data for detailed behavioural observations, we provide the first behavioural assessment of a giant panda female raising two cubs simultaneously without direct human assistance or disturbance. We compared the maternal behaviour during the denning period of twin cubs raised in 2016 with two singleton cubs born 2007 and 2010. YANG YANG, the dam, rested less and interacted more with the twins than with the singletons in the first month postpartum and invested a greater part of her daily time budget on rearing the twins. We discuss potential favourable factors for the autonomous twin-rearing of a female giant panda, which could serve as a model for similar efforts elsewhere.
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:Giant pandas represent one of the most endangered species worldwide, and their reproductive capacity is extremely low. They have a relatively long gestational period, mainly because embryo implantation is delayed. Giant panda cubs comprise only a small proportion of the mother's body weight, making it difficult to determine whether a giant panda is pregnant. Timely determination of pregnancy contributes to the efficient breeding and management of giant pandas. Meanwhile, metabolomics studies the metabolic composition of biological samples, which can reflect metabolic functions in cells, tissues, and organisms. This work explored the urinary metabolites of giant pandas during pregnancy. A sample of 8 female pandas was selected. Differences in metabolite levels in giant panda urine samples were analyzed via ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry comparing pregnancy to anoestrus. Pattern recognition techniques, including partial least squares-discriminant analysis and orthogonal partial least squares-discriminant analysis, were used to analyze multiple parameters of the data. Compared with the results during anoestrus, multivariate statistical analysis of results obtained from the same pandas being pregnant identified 16 differential metabolites in the positive-ion mode and 43 differential metabolites in the negative-ion mode. The levels of tryptophan, choline, kynurenic acid, uric acid, indole-3-acetaldehyde, taurine, and betaine were higher in samples during pregnancy, whereas those of xanthurenic acid and S-adenosylhomocysteine were lower. Amino acid metabolism, lipid metabolism, and organic acid production differed significantly between anoestrus and pregnancy. Our results provide new insights into metabolic changes in the urine of giant pandas during pregnancy, and the differential levels of metabolites in urine provide a basis for determining pregnancy in giant pandas. Understanding these metabolic changes could be helpful for managing pregnant pandas to provide proper nutrients to their fetuses.
Project description:The interaction between intestinal microbial flora and giant pandas (<i>Ailuropoda melanoleuca</i>) is indispensable for the healthy development of giant pandas. In this study, we analysed the diversity of bacteria and fungi in the intestines of six giant pandas (two pandas in each development stage) with a high-throughput sequencing technique to expand the relative variation in abundance of dominant microbes and potential cellulose-degradation genera in the intestines of the giant pandas and to explore the correlation between dominant microbial genera in the intestines and cellulose digestion activities of giant pandas. The results showed that the intestinal bacterial diversity of young giant pandas was higher than that of sub-adult and adult giant pandas, and Shannon's diversity index was about 2.0. The intestinal bacterial diversity of giant pandas from sub-adult to adult (mature stage) stage showed an increasing trend, but the intestinal fungal diversity showed no considerable regular relations with their ages. The microbial composition and abundance of giant pandas changed in different developmental stages. Pearson correlation analysis and path analysis showed that there was a close relationship between the dominant microbes in the intestines of giant pandas, and the interaction between microbial genera might affect the cellulose digestion ability of giant pandas. Generally, the digestibility of cellulose degraders in pandas was still insufficient, with low enzymic activity and immature microbial structure. Therefore, the utilization and digestion of bamboo cellulose still might not be a main source of energy for pandas.