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Fecal transplants let packrats eat poison
Date:7/20/2014

e antibiotic, they were unable to feed on creosote and lost 10 percent of their body weight within 13 days. The second group ate only rabbit chow and didn't lose weight, showing that killing their gut microbes didn't harm them because they weren't eating toxic creosote.

In the third experiment, the biologists essentially sped up evolution by using fecal transplants to quickly change populations of microbes living in the woodrats' guts. They conducted fecal transplants and showed that acquiring new microbes indeed helped woodrats adopt new diets.

Woodrats naturally eat their own and other woodrats' feces. So in the experiment, juniper-eating Great Basin woodrats were fed rabbit chow mixed with feces either from other juniper eaters or from creosote-eating Mojave woodrats. Both woodrat groups then were challenged with a creosote diet.

After ingesting feces and thus gut microbes from creosote eaters, juniper eaters persisted for 11 days on the creosote diet without losing much weight. Yet 65 percent of the juniper eaters that ate feces of other juniper eaters didn't gain microbes that detoxify creosote, so they lost 10 percent of their weight by day 11 on a creosote diet.

It's not that those woodrats rejected creosote-laced food. They ate as much as the woodrats that were fed feces with creosote-detoxifying microbes. Instead, Kohl and co-authors found that when woodrats didn't get transplants of creosote-detoxifying microbes, their urine was more acidic, suggesting their livers expended a lot of energy to degrade creosote toxins.

But in juniper eaters that consumed the feces of creosote eaters, their newly acquired gut microbes likely detoxified most of the creosote, taking the burden off of liver enzymes.


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Contact: Lee J. Siegel
lee.siegel@utah.edu
801-244-5399
University of Utah
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3 4

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