Image_3_Efficacy of Fecal Sampling as a Gut Proxy in the Study of Chicken Gut Microbiota.pdf
Despite the convenience and non-invasiveness of fecal sampling, the fecal microbiota does not fully represent that of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and the efficacy of fecal sampling to accurately represent the gut microbiota in birds is poorly understood. In this study, we aim to identify the efficacy of feces as a gut proxy in birds using chickens as a model. We collected 1,026 samples from 206 chickens, including duodenum, jejunum, ileum, cecum, and feces samples, for 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing analyses. In this study, the efficacy of feces as a gut proxy was partitioned to microbial community membership and community structure. Most taxa in the small intestine (84.11–87.28%) and ceca (99.39%) could be identified in feces. Microbial community membership was reflected with a gut anatomic feature, but community structure was not. Excluding shared microbes, the small intestine and ceca contributed 34.12 and 5.83% of the total fecal members, respectively. The composition of Firmicutes members in the small intestine and that of Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria members in the ceca could be well mirrored by the observations in fecal samples (ρ = 0.54–0.71 and 0.71–0.78, respectively, P < 0.001). However, there were few significant correlations for each genus between feces and each of the four gut segments, and these correlations were not high (ρ = −0.2–0.4, P < 0.05) for most genera. Our results suggest that fecal microbial community has a good potential to identify most taxa in the chicken gut and could moderately mirror the microbial structure in the intestine at the microbial population level with phylum specificity. However, it should be interpreted with caution by using feces as a proxy to study associations for microbial structure at individual microorganism level.