Regulating sodium and water balances is crucial for survival of small, desert mammals. Studies demonstrate that the gut microbiota and their metabolites are involved in host energy homeostasis, but little is known on the interactions among salt loading, gut microbiota, and osmoregulation. The aim of this study was to fill this gap. Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus) were offered drinking water (Con) and either water containing moderate (4%, MS) or high NaCl (8%, HS) ad libitum. Intake of HS reduced α diversity of the microbial community and, at the genus level, reduced the relative abundances of Rikenella and Christensenella but increased Atopobium. To confirm the function of gut microbiota in host osmoregulation, we transplanted caecal microbiota in HS gerbils. To cope with salt loading, the gerbils concentrated urine, resulting in negative energy balance and systemic inflammation. The HS gerbils increased hypothalamic arginine vasopressin and intestinal and renal aquaporin 2 to support water retention, and reduced intestinal and renal epithelial sodium channel α to promote sodium excretion. However, HS gerbils with caecal microbiota transplant (CMT) from Con donors maintained energy balance and osmoregulation, and had a much reduced systemic inflammation. Further, CMT from Con donors to HS recipients reshaped the gut microbiota, particularly by reducing Parabacteroides distasonis and Prevotella copri, and increasing Lactobacillus reuteri abundances, with a resulting increase in bacterial metabolites such as butyrate. These findings highlight a vital role of the microbiota-gut-kidney axis in mediating salt-related osmoregulation, allowing small mammals to adapt to high salt loads in a desert habitat.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology