Gut Microbiome Composition Correlates with Longevity in Rabbits

The balance of microbial populations making up the gut microbiome is different from individual to individual, and changes with age in detrimental ways. Pro-inflammatory microbes, as well as those that create otherwise harmful metabolites, expand in number at the expense of microbial populations that produce beneficial metabolites. Evidence strongly suggests that both variations between individuals and age-related changes in the gut microbiome can contribute to age-related disease and mortality. Here, for example, a study in rabbits shows that specific differences in the gut microbiome correlate well with observed length of life.

Longevity and resilience are two fundamental traits for more sustainable livestock production. These traits are closely related, as resilient animals tend to have longer lifespans. An interesting criterion for increasing longevity in rabbits could be based on the information provided by its gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is essential for regulating health and plays crucial roles in the development of the immune system.

The aim of this research was to investigate if animals with different longevities have different microbial profiles. We sequenced the 16S rRNA gene from soft faeces from 95 does. First, we compared two maternal rabbit lines with different longevities; a standard longevity maternal line (A) and a maternal line (LP) that was founded based on longevity criteria: females with a minimum of 25 parities with an average prolificacy per parity of 9 or more. Second, we compared the gut microbiota of two groups of animals from line LP with different longevities: females that died/were culled with two parities or less (LLP) and females with more than 15 parities (HLP).

Differences in alpha diversity and beta diversity were observed between lines A and LP, and analysis showed a high prediction accuracy (more than 91%) of classification of animals to line A versus LP. Interestingly, some of the most important microbial taxa identified were common to both comparisons (Akkermansia, Christensenellaceae R-7, Uncultured Eubacteriaceae, among others) and have been reported to be related to resilience and longevity.

In summary, our results indicate that the first parity gut microbiome profile differs between the two rabbit maternal lines (A and LP) and, to a lesser extent, between animals of line LP with different longevities (LLP and HLP). Several genera were able to discriminate animals from the two lines and animals with different longevities, which shows that the gut microbiome could be used as a predictive factor for longevity, or as a selection criterion for these traits.


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