Up to 95 percent of the microbiota is located in the gastrointestinal tract and microbes outnumber animal cells by ten to one. The genetic potential of the microbiota collective is estimated to be ten to hundred times higher compared to the host genome.
Evidence accumulates that (early life) intestinal microbiota drive immune competence parameters and metabolic processes of livestock [1-6]. It has been shown that gut microbiota profiles can be seen as complex polygenic traits, influenced by both host and environment . In addition, in another study microbiota profiles predicted complex health traits in humans (inflammatory bowel disease and body mass index) or intestinal greenhouse gas production for cattle . These studies show that it is both possible to associate complex traits and microbiota profiles, and subsequently predict the outcome of a certain complex trait.
This work is embedded within the research program “Bright ideas for innovations in animal breeding?”, and falls under the top-priority “Technologies for better phenotyping”. Researchers involved include Mario Calus, Mari Smits, and Dirkjan Schokker.
Predict feed efficiency
The objective of this project is to identify faecal (images of) microbiota profiles associated to a complex trait. In this case feed efficiency, which is an important economical trait in pig breeding programmes. When we are able to predict and optimize feed efficiency in pigs, livestock industry can produce more animal protein with less resources, contributing to environmental and economic issues.
Do you want to know more about this research project? You can contact Dirkjan Schokker for more information.
- Schokker, D., et al., Early-life environmental variation affects intestinal microbiota and immune development in new-born piglets. PLoS One, 2014. 9(6): p. e100040.
- Schmidt, B., et al., Establishment of normal gut microbiota is compromised under excessive hygiene conditions. PLoS One, 2011. 6(12): p. e28284.
- Wu, H.J. and E. Wu, The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut Microbes, 2012. 3(1): p. 4-14.
- Cox, L.M., et al., Altering the intestinal microbiota during a critical developmental window has lasting metabolic consequences. Cell, 2014. 158(4): p. 705-21.
- Round, J.L. and S.K. Mazmanian, The gut microbiota shapes intestinal immune responses during health and disease. Nat Rev Immunol, 2009. 9(5): p. 313-23.
- Mach, N., et al., Early life establishment of the swine gut microbiome and impact on host phenotypes. Environ Microbiol Rep, 2015.
- Benson, A.K., et al., Individuality in gut microbiota composition is a complex polygenic trait shaped by multiple environmental and host genetic factors. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2010. 107(44): p. 18933-8.
- Ross, E.M., et al., Metagenomic predictions: from microbiome to complex health and environmental phenotypes in humans and cattle. PLoS One, 2013. 8(9): p. e73056.