Interactions Between Diet and the Intestinal Microbiota Alter Intestinal Permeability and Colitis Severity in Mice

Sean R. Llewellyn, Graham J. Britton, Eduardo J. Contijoch, Olivia H. Vennaro, Arthur Mortha, Jean Frederic Colombel, Ari Grinspan, Jose C. Clemente, Miriam Merad, Jeremiah J. Faith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

215 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: It is not clear how the complex interactions between diet and the intestinal microbiota affect development of mucosal inflammation or inflammatory bowel disease. We investigated interactions between dietary ingredients, nutrients, and the microbiota in specific pathogen-free (SPF) and germ-free (GF) mice given more than 40 unique diets; we quantified individual and synergistic effects of dietary macronutrients and the microbiota on intestinal health and development of colitis. Methods: C56BL/6J SPF and GF mice were placed on custom diets containing different concentrations and sources of protein, fat, digestible carbohydrates, and indigestible carbohydrates (fiber). After 1 week, SPF and GF mice were given dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) to induce colitis. Disease severity was determined based on the percent weight change from baseline, and modeled as a function of the concentration of each macronutrient in the diet. In unchallenged mice, we measured intestinal permeability by feeding mice labeled dextran and measuring levels in blood. Feces were collected and microbiota were analyzed by 16S rDNA sequencing. We collected colons from mice and performed transcriptome analyses. Results: Fecal microbiota varied with diet; the concentration of protein and fiber had the strongest effect on colitis development. Among 9 fiber sources tested, psyllium, pectin, and cellulose fiber reduced the severity of colitis in SPF mice, whereas methylcellulose increased severity. Increasing dietary protein increased the density of the fecal microbiota and the severity of colitis in SPF mice, but not in GF mice or mice given antibiotics. Psyllium fiber reduced the severity of colitis through microbiota-dependent and microbiota-independent mechanisms. Combinatorial perturbations to dietary casein protein and psyllium fiber in parallel accounted for most variation in gut microbial density and intestinal permeability in unchallenged mice, as well as the severity of DSS-induced colitis; changes in 1 ingredient could be offset by changes in another. Conclusions: In an analysis of the effects of different dietary components and the gut microbiota on mice with and without DSS-induced colitis, we found complex mixtures of nutrients affect intestinal permeability, gut microbial density, and development of intestinal inflammation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1037-1046.e2
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • IBD
  • Microbiota
  • Mouse Models
  • Systems Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Interactions Between Diet and the Intestinal Microbiota Alter Intestinal Permeability and Colitis Severity in Mice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this