Table_1_Ewe Vaginal Microbiota: Associations With Pregnancy Outcome and Changes During Gestation.PDF
Reproductive performance is paramount to the success of livestock production enterprises focused on lamb meat production. Reproductive success is influenced by various factors, possibly including the reproductive tract microbial communities present at the time of copulation and throughout pregnancy. There are few publications that identify the vaginal microbial communities of livestock, and even fewer exist for sheep. To compare ewe vaginal microbial communities, vaginal swabs were taken from 67 Hampshire and Hampshire X Suffolk crossbred ewes from the Iowa State University sheep farm at a pre-breeding time point (S1) and after pregnancy testing (S2). Animals that were determined pregnant were sampled again within a few days of expected parturition (S3). DNA was extracted from these swabs, and 16S rRNA gene Illumina MiSeq amplicon sequencing was conducted to fingerprint the bacterial communities found within this system. Pre-breeding time point samples showed no differences in community structure between animals later found to be pregnant or non-pregnant, but significant changes were detected in species richness (Chao; P < 0.001) and species diversity (Shannon; P < 0.001) at the second sampling time point. A higher microbial diversity within the S2 time point samples may suggest a more stable environment driven by pregnancy, as this increased diversity is maintained in pregnant animals from the S2 to the S3 time point. Additionally, several bacterial phylotypes, such as Mannheimia, Oscillospiraceae-like OTUs and Alistipes, were more abundant at either the S1 or S2 time points in animals that established pregnancy, suggesting a beneficial effect on pregnancy outcome. This study identifies changes within the microbial communities of the ewe vagina before and during gestation and offers inferences on how these changes may impact pregnancy outcome. Information presented herein offers new knowledge about sheep vaginal microbial communities and serves as a starting point to help guide researchers to improve sheep reproductive performance in the future.