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Muribaculaceae Genomes Assembled from Metagenomes Suggest Genetic Drivers of Differential Response to Acarbose Treatment in Mice


The drug acarbose is used to treat diabetes and, by inhibiting α-amylase in the small intestine, increases the amount of starch entering the lower digestive tract. This results in changes to the composition of the microbiota and their fermentation products. Acarbose also increases longevity in mice, an effect that has been correlated with increased production of the short-chain fatty acids propionate and butyrate. In experiments replicated across three study sites, two distantly related species in the bacterial family Muribaculaceae were dramatically more abundant in acarbose-treated mice, distinguishing these responders from other members of the family. Bacteria in the family Muribaculaceae are predicted to produce propionate as a fermentation end product and are abundant and diverse in the guts of mice, although few isolates are available. We reconstructed genomes from metagenomes (MAGs) for nine populations of Muribaculaceae to examine factors that distinguish species that respond positively to acarbose. We found two closely related MAGs (B1A and B1B) from one responsive species that both contain a polysaccharide utilization locus with a predicted extracellular α-amylase. These genomes also shared a periplasmic neopullulanase with another, distantly related MAG (B2) representative of the only other responsive species. This gene differentiated these three MAGs from MAGs representative of nonresponding species. Differential gene content in B1A and B1B may be associated with the inconsistent response of this species to acarbose across study sites. This work demonstrates the utility of culture-free genomics for inferring the ecological roles of gut bacteria, including their response to pharmaceutical perturbations. IMPORTANCE The drug acarbose is used to treat diabetes by preventing the breakdown of starch in the small intestine, resulting in dramatic changes in the abundance of some members of the gut microbiome and its fermentation products. In mice, several of the bacteria that respond most positively are classified in the family Muribaculaceae, members of which produce propionate as a primary fermentation product. Propionate has been associated with gut health and increased longevity in mice. We found that genomes of the most responsive Muribaculaceae showed signs of specialization for starch fermentation, presumably providing them a competitive advantage in the large intestine of animals consuming acarbose. Comparisons among genomes enhance existing models for the ecological niches occupied by members of this family. In addition, genes encoding one type of enzyme known to participate in starch breakdown were found in all three genomes from responding species but none of the other genomes.

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