The microbial metagenome and bone tissue composition in mice with microbiome-induced reductions in bone strength

Jason D. Guss, Erik Taylor, Zach Rouse, Sebastian Roubert, Catherine H. Higgins, Corinne J. Thomas, Shefford P. Baker, Deepak Vashishth, Eve Donnelly, M. Kyla Shea, Sarah L. Booth, Rodrigo C. Bicalho, Christopher J. Hernandez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The genetic components of microbial species that inhabit the body are known collectively as the microbiome. Modifications to the microbiome have been implicated in disease processes throughout the body and have recently been shown to influence bone. Prior work has associated changes in the microbial taxonomy (phyla, class, species, etc.) in the gut with bone phenotypes but has provided limited information regarding mechanisms. With the goal of achieving a more mechanistic understanding of the effects of the microbiome on bone, we perform a metagenomic analysis of the gut microbiome that provides information on the functional capacity of the microbes (all microbial genes present) rather than only characterizing the microbial taxa. Male C57Bl/6 mice were subjected to disruption of the gut microbiota (ΔMicrobiome) using oral antibiotics (from 4 to 16 weeks of age) or remained untreated (n = 6–7/group). Disruption of the gut microbiome in this manner has been shown to lead to reductions in tissue mechanical properties and whole bone strength in adulthood with only minor changes in bone geometry and density. ΔMicrobiome led to modifications in the abundance of microbial genes responsible for the synthesis of the bacterial cell wall and capsule; bacterially synthesized carbohydrates; and bacterially synthesized vitamins (B and K) (p < 0.01). Follow up analysis focused on vitamin K, a factor that has previously been associated with bone health. The vitamin K content of the cecum, liver and kidneys was primarily microbe-derived forms of vitamin K (menaquinones) and was decreased by 32–66% in ∆Microbiome mice compared to untreated animals (p < 0.01). Bone mineral crystallinity determined using Raman spectroscopy was decreased in ∆Microbiome mice (p = 0.01). This study illustrates the use of metagenomic analysis to link the microbiome to bone phenotypes and provides preliminary findings implicating microbially synthesized vitamin-K as a regulator of bone matrix quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-154
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomechanics
  • Bone matrix
  • Microbiome
  • Osteoimmunology
  • Osteoporosis
  • Raman spectroscopy


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