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Lactobacilli and other gastrointestinal microbiota of Peromyscus leucopus, reservoir host for agents of Lyme disease and other zoonoses in North America.


The cricetine rodent Peromyscus leucopus is an important reservoir for several human zoonoses, including Lyme disease, in North America. Akin to hamsters, the white-footed deermouse has been unevenly characterized in comparison to the murid Mus musculus. To further understanding of P. leucopus' total genomic content, we investigated gut microbiomes of an outbred colony of P. leucopus, inbred M. musculus, and a natural population of P. leucopus. Metagenome and whole genome sequencing were combined with microbiology and microscopy approaches. A focus was the genus Lactobacillus, four diverse species of which were isolated from forestomach and feces of colony P. leucopus. Three of the species-L. animalis, L. reuteri, and provisionally-named species "L. peromysci"-were identified in fecal metagenomes of wild P. leucopus but not discernibly in samples from M. musculus. L. johnsonii, the fourth species, was common in M. musculus but absent or sparse in wild P. leucopus. Also identified in both colony and natural populations were a Helicobacter sp. in feces but not stomach, and a Tritrichomonas sp. protozoan in cecum or feces. The gut metagenomes of colony P. leucopus were similar to those of colony M. musculus at the family or higher level and for major subsystems. But there were multiple differences between species and sexes within each species in their gut metagenomes at orthologous gene level. These findings provide a foundation for hypothesis-testing of functions of individual microbial species and for interventions, such as bait vaccines based on an autochthonous bacterium and targeting P. leucopus for transmission-blocking.

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