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Novel Polyfermentor Intestinal Model (PolyFermS) for Controlled Ecological Studies: Validation and Effect of pH

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077772
  • Research Article
  • Design
  • Ecology


In vitro gut fermentation modeling offers a useful platform for ecological studies of the intestinal microbiota. In this study we describe a novel Polyfermentor Intestinal Model (PolyFermS) designed to compare the effects of different treatments on the same complex gut microbiota. The model operated in conditions of the proximal colon is composed of a first reactor containing fecal microbiota immobilized in gel beads, and used to continuously inoculate a set of parallel second-stage reactors. The PolyFermS model was validated with three independent intestinal fermentations conducted for 38 days with immobilized human fecal microbiota obtained from three child donors. The microbial diversity of reactor effluents was compared to donor feces using the HITChip, a high-density phylogenetic microarray targeting small subunit rRNA sequences of over 1100 phylotypes of the human gastrointestinal tract. Furthermore, the metabolic response to a decrease of pH from 5.7 to 5.5, applied to balance the high fermentative activity in inoculum reactors, was studied. We observed a reproducible development of stable intestinal communities representing major taxonomic bacterial groups at ratios similar to these in feces of healthy donors, a high similarity of microbiota composition produced in second-stage reactors within a model, and a high time stability of microbiota composition and metabolic activity over 38 day culture. For all tested models, the pH-drop of 0.2 units in inoculum reactors enhanced butyrate production at the expense of acetate, but was accompanied by a donor-specific reorganization of the reactor community, suggesting a concerted metabolic adaptation and trigger of community-specific lactate or acetate cross-feeding pathways in response to varying pH. Our data showed that the PolyFermS model allows the stable cultivation of complex intestinal microbiota akin to the fecal donor and can be developed for the direct comparison of different experimental conditions in parallel reactors continuously inoculated with the exact same microbiota.

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