Comparative Study of Gut Microbiota in Wild and Captive Giant Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).
ABSTRACT: Captive breeding has been used as an effective approach to protecting endangered animals but its effect on the gut microbiome and the conservation status of these species is largely unknown. The giant panda is a flagship species for the conservation of wildlife. With integrated efforts including captive breeding, this species has been recently upgraded from "endangered" to "vulnerable" (IUCN 2016). Since a large proportion (21.8%) of their global population is still captive, it is critical to understand how captivity changes the gut microbiome of these pandas and how such alterations to the microbiome might affect their future fitness and potential impact on the ecosystem after release into the wild. Here, we use 16S rRNA (ribosomal RNA) marker gene sequencing and shotgun metagenomics sequencing to demonstrate that the fecal microbiomes differ substantially between wild and captive giant pandas. Fecal microbiome diversity was significantly lower in captive pandas, as was the diversity of functional genes. Additionally, captive pandas have reduced functional potential for cellulose degradation but enriched metabolic pathways for starch metabolism, indicating that they may not adapt to a wild diet after being released into the wild since a major component of their diet in the wild will be bamboo. Most significantly, we observed a significantly higher level of amylase activity but a lower level of cellulase activity in captive giant panda feces than those of wild giant pandas, shown by an in vitro experimental assay. Furthermore, antibiotic resistance genes and virulence factors, as well as heavy metal tolerance genes were enriched in the microbiomes of captive pandas, which raises a great concern of spreading these genes to other wild animals and ecosystems when they are released into a wild environment. Our results clearly show that captivity has altered the giant panda microbiome, which could have unintended negative consequences on their adaptability and the ecosystem during the reintroduction of giant pandas into the wild.
Project description:The rise in infections by antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses a serious public health problem worldwide. The gut microbiome of animals is a reservoir for antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). However, the correlation between the gut microbiome of wild animals and ARGs remains controversial. Here, based on the metagenomes of giant pandas (including three wild populations from the Qinling, Qionglai and Xiaoxiangling Mountains, and two major captive populations from Yaan and Chengdu), we investigated the potential correlation between the constitution of the gut microbiome and the composition of ARGs across the different geographic locations and living environments. We found that the types of ARGs were correlated with gut microbiome composition. The NMDS cluster analysis using Jaccard distance of the ARGs composition of the gut microbiome of wild giant pandas displayed a difference based on geographic location. Captivity also had an effect on the differences in ARGs composition. Furthermore, we found that the Qinling population exhibited profound dissimilarities of both gut microbiome composition and ARGs (the highest proportion of Clostridium and vancomycin resistance genes) when compared to the other wild and captive populations studies, which was supported by previous giant panda whole-genome sequencing analysis. In this study, we provide an example of a potential consensus pattern regarding host population genetics, symbiotic gut microbiome and ARGs. We revealed that habitat isolation impacts the ARG structure in the gut microbiome of mammals. Therefore, the difference in ARG composition between giant panda populations will provide some basic information for their conservation and management, especially for captive populations.
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 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.
Project description:Cryptosporidium spp. have been extensively reported to cause significant diarrheal disease in humans and domestic animals. On the contrary, little information is available on the prevalence and characterization of Cryptosporidium in wild animals in China, especially in giant pandas. The aim of the present study was to detect Cryptosporidium infections and identify Cryptosporidium species at the molecular level in both captive and wild giant pandas in Sichuan province, China.Using a PCR approach, we amplified and sequenced the 18S rRNA gene from 322 giant pandas fecal samples (122 from 122 captive individuals and 200 collected from four habitats) in Sichuan province, China. The Cryptosporidium species/genotypes were identified via a BLAST comparison against published Cryptosporidium sequences available in GenBank followed by phylogenetic analysis. The results revealed that both captive and wild giant pandas were infected with a single Cryptosporidium species, C. andersoni, at a prevalence of 15.6% (19/122) and 0.5% (1/200) in captive and wild giant pandas, respectively.The present study revealed the existence of C. andersoni in both captive and wild giant panda fecal samples for the first time, and also provided useful fundamental data for further research on the molecular epidemiology and control of Cryptosporidium infection in giant pandas.
Project description:The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is a vulnerable mammal herbivore living wild in central China. Viral infections have become a potential threat to the health of these endangered animals, but limited information related to these infections is available.Using a viral metagenomic approach, we surveyed viruses in the feces, nasopharyngeal secretions, blood, and different tissues from a wild giant panda that died from an unknown disease, a healthy wild giant panda, and 46 healthy captive animals.The previously uncharacterized complete or near complete genomes of four viruses from three genera in Papillomaviridae family, six viruses in a proposed new Picornaviridae genus (Aimelvirus), two unclassified viruses related to posaviruses in Picornavirales order, 19 anelloviruses in four different clades of Anelloviridae family, four putative circoviruses, and 15 viruses belonging to the recently described Genomoviridae family were sequenced. Reflecting the diet of giant pandas, numerous insect virus sequences related to the families Iflaviridae, Dicistroviridae, Iridoviridae, Baculoviridae, Polydnaviridae, and subfamily Densovirinae and plant viruses sequences related to the families Tombusviridae, Partitiviridae, Secoviridae, Geminiviridae, Luteoviridae, Virgaviridae, and Rhabdoviridae; genus Umbravirus, Alphaflexiviridae, and Phycodnaviridae were also detected in fecal samples. A small number of insect virus sequences were also detected in the nasopharyngeal secretions of healthy giant pandas and lung tissues from the dead wild giant panda. Although the viral families present in the sick giant panda were also detected in the healthy ones, a higher proportion of papillomaviruses, picornaviruses, and anelloviruses reads were detected in the diseased panda.This viral survey increases our understanding of eukaryotic viruses in giant pandas and provides a baseline for comparison to viruses detected in future infectious disease outbreaks. The similar viral families detected in sick and healthy giant pandas indicate that these viruses result in commensal infections in most immuno-competent animals.
Project description:The giant panda is known worldwide for having successfully moved to a diet almost exclusively based on bamboo. Provided that no lignocellulose-degrading enzyme was detected in panda's genome, bamboo digestion is believed to depend on its gut microbiome. However, pandas retain the digestive system of a carnivore, with retention times of maximum 12 h. Cultivation of their unique gut microbiome under controlled laboratory conditions may be a valid tool to understand giant pandas' dietary habits, and provide valuable insights about what component of lignocellulose may be metabolized. Here, we collected gut microbiomes from fresh fecal samples of a giant panda (either entirely green or yellow stools) and supplied them with green leaves or yellow pith (i.e., the peeled stem). Microbial community composition was substrate dependent, and resulted in markedly different fermentation profiles, with yellow pith fermented to lactate and green leaves to lactate, acetate and ethanol, the latter to strikingly high concentrations (?3%, v:v, within 3.5 h). Microbial metaproteins pointed to hemicellulose rather than cellulose degradation. The alpha-amylase from the giant panda (E.C. 126.96.36.199) was the predominant identified metaprotein, particularly in reactors inoculated with pellets derived from fecal samples (up to 60%). Gut microbiomes assemblage was most prominently impacted by the change in substrate (either leaf or pith). Removal of soluble organics from inocula to force lignocellulose degradation significantly enriched Bacteroides (in green leaf) and Escherichia/Shigella (in yellow pith). Overall, different substrates (either leaf or pith) markedly shaped gut microbiome assemblies and fermentation profiles. The biochemical profile of fermentation products may be an underestimated factor contributing to explain the peculiar dietary behavior of giant pandas, and should be implemented in large scale studies together with short-term lab-scale cultivation of gut microbiomes.
Project description:Captivity maybe the only choice for survival of many endangered vertebrates, and understanding its broad effects is important for animal management and conservation, including breeding endangered species for subsequent release. Extreme environmental changes during captivity may influence survival ability in the wild. Captivity decreases gut bacterial diversity in a wide range of animals. However, most studies directly compare animals living in captivity with those in the wild, and there is a lack of understanding of effects of gradient shift in lifestyle during species reintroduction based on the soft-release strategy, which involves a confinement period in a field enclosure. Here, we used 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing to analyze gut microbiomes of 11 captive and 12 semi-wild Przewalski's horses (PH; Equus ferus przewalskii) under the same captivity environment, using fecal samples. A subset of samples with abundant extracted DNA (including 3 captive and 3 semi-wild individuals) was selected for whole-genome shotgun sequencing. We found that community diversity did not differ between the semi-wild PH and captive PH, but the semi-wild PH had significantly higher bacterial richness than those in captivity. Relative abundances of all dominant phyla were similar across the semi-wild or captive horses, while those of the non-dominant phyla Tenericutes and Proteobacteria were significantly higher in semi-wild PH than in captive PH. Beta diversity results indicated that bacterial communities of captives and semi-wild horses were clearly separated distinct when considering only composition. Functional profiling of the microbiomes revealed that the semi-wild and captive gut microbiomes were largely similar. However, semi-wild horse microbiomes had higher abundance of bacterial genes related to core metabolic processes, such as carbohydrates, amino acids, and nucleic acid metabolism. The study revealed that semi-wild PH could retain specific non-dominant bacteria and harbor a more diverse microbiome than the captive counterpart, and thus have higher metabolic potential to utilize the complex plants efficiently. These results indicate that change in host lifestyle may play a role in microbiome differentiation in the process of reintroduction, suggesting that a short period of time in captivity is acceptable for PH from the perspective of maintaining the richness of intestinal bacterial flora to some extent.
Project description:We report an outbreak of canine distemper virus (CDV) infection among endangered giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Five of six CDV infected giant pandas died. The surviving giant panda was previously vaccinated against CDV. Genomic sequencing of CDV isolated from one of the infected pandas (giant panda/SX/2014) suggests it belongs to the Asia-1 cluster. The hemagglutinin protein of the isolated virus and virus sequenced from lung samples originating from deceased giant pandas all possessed the substitutions V26M, T213A, K281R, S300N, P340Q, and Y549H. The presence of the Y549H substitution is notable as it is found at the signaling lymphocytic activation molecule (SLAM) receptor-binding site and has been implicated in the emergence of highly pathogenic CDV and host switching. These findings demonstrate that giant pandas are susceptible to CDV and suggest that surveillance and vaccination among all captive giant pandas are warranted to support conservation efforts for this endangered species.
Project description: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.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: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.