Changes in the gut microbiome and fermentation products concurrent with enhanced longevity in acarbose-treated mice

  • Byron J. Smith (Creator)
  • Richard A. Miller (Creator)
  • Aaron C. Ericsson (Creator)
  • David E. Harrison (Creator)
  • John R Strong (Creator)
  • Thomas M. Schmidt (Creator)



Abstract Background Treatment with the Îą-glucosidase inhibitor acarbose increases median lifespan by approximately 20% in male mice and 5% in females. This longevity extension differs from dietary restriction based on a number of features, including the relatively small effects on weight and the sex-specificity of the lifespan effect. By inhibiting host digestion, acarbose increases the flux of starch to the lower digestive system, resulting in changes to the gut microbiota and their fermentation products. Given the documented health benefits of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), the dominant products of starch fermentation by gut bacteria, this secondary effect of acarbose could contribute to increased longevity in mice. To explore this hypothesis, we compared the fecal microbiome of mice treated with acarbose to control mice at three independent study sites. Results Microbial communities and the concentrations of SCFAs in the feces of mice treated with acarbose were notably different from those of control mice. At all three study sites, the bloom of a single bacterial taxon was the most obvious response to acarbose treatment. The blooming populations were classified to the largely uncultured Bacteroidales family Muribaculaceae and were the same taxonomic unit at two of the three sites. Propionate concentrations in feces were consistently elevated in treated mice, while the concentrations of acetate and butyrate reflected a dependence on study site. Across all samples, Muribaculaceae abundance was strongly correlated with propionate and community composition was an important predictor of SCFA concentrations. Cox proportional hazards regression showed that the fecal concentrations of acetate, butyrate, and propionate were, together, predictive of mouse longevity even while controlling for sex, site, and acarbose. Conclusion We observed a correlation between fecal SCFAs and lifespan in mice, suggesting a role of the gut microbiota in the longevity-enhancing properties of acarbose. Treatment modulated the taxonomic composition and fermentation products of the gut microbiome, while the site-dependence of the responses illustrate the challenges facing reproducibility and interpretation in microbiome studies. These results motivate future studies exploring manipulation of the gut microbial community and its fermentation products for increased longevity, testing causal roles of SCFAs in the observed effects of acarbose.
Date made available2019

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