Akkermansia species: phylogeny, physiology and comparative genomics

J.P. Ouwerkerk

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

The gastrointestinal tract is lined with a mucus layer, which is colonized by a distinct mucosal microbial population. The anaerobic gut bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila is a well-described member of the mucosal microbiota and has been shown to be a human gut symbiont. In the mucus layer this gut symbiont is likely exposed to the oxygen that diffuses from mucosal epithelial cells. We showed that A. muciniphila has an active detoxification system to cope with reactive oxygen species and can use oxygen for respiration at nanomolar oxygen concentrations, with cytochrome bd as terminal oxidase.

Until now, the type strain A. muciniphila MucT was the only cultured representative of this species. We isolated and characterized six new A. muciniphila strains from faecal samples of four different human subjects. These A. muciniphila strains showed minimal genomic and physiologic divergence while retaining their mucin degrading and utilisation capacities. Apart from the human gastrointestinal tract, we detected Akkermansia species in intestinal samples of numerous mammals. An additional ten new A. muciniphila strains were isolated from seven different mammalian species and showed high genomic and physiologic similarity to type strain A. muciniphila MucT. Apart from Akkermansia species, other Verrucomicrobia were identified within the gastrointestinal tract of non-human mammals. Furthermore, we obtained an Akkermansia isolate from the reticulated python, which had a similar mucin degrading capacity as the human strain A. muciniphila MucT but showed more efficient galactose utilization. On the basis of further phylogenetic, physiological, and genomic characterisations, strain PytT was found to represent a novel species within the genus Akkermansia, for which the name Akkermansia glycaniphilus sp. nov. is proposed.

Overall, A. muciniphila strains isolated from intestinal samples of human and other mammals show very limited genomic and physiologic divergence. This together with the widely-spread global presence of A. muciniphila and the dependence on mucin for optimal growth, points towards a conserved symbiosis. This conserved symbiosis might be indicative for the beneficial role of this organism in respect to the host metabolic health. This is in line with the observation that A. muciniphila has been negatively associated with obesity and its associated metabolic disorders.

In mice, treatment with viable A. muciniphila cells reversed high-fat diet-induced obesity. We described a scalable workflow for the preparation and preservation of high numbers of viable cells of A. muciniphila under strict anaerobic conditions for therapeutic interventions. Moreover, we developed various quality assessment and control procedures aimed to ensure the use of viable cells of A. muciniphila at any location in the world. These viable cells were used in a pilot study in humans in which no adverse events were observed. This is promising for future applications of A. muciniphila as a new therapeutic, leading towards the potential treatment of unhealthy states of the microbiota.

 

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • de Vos, Willem, Promotor
  • Belzer, Clara, Co-promotor
Award date15 Jun 2016
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789462577411
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • akkermansia
  • akkermansia muciniphila
  • gastrointestinal microbiota
  • phylogeny
  • physiology
  • genomics
  • dna sequencing
  • nucleotide sequences
  • transcriptomes
  • antibiotic resistance
  • genome annotation

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