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Cervicovaginal Microbiome Composition Is Associated with Metabolic Profiles in Healthy Pregnancy


Microbes and their metabolic products influence early-life immune and microbiome development, yet remain understudied during pregnancy. Vaginal microbial communities are typically dominated by one or a few well-adapted microbes which are able to survive in a narrow pH range and are adapted to live on host-derived carbon sources, likely sourced from glycogen and mucin present in the vaginal environment. We characterized the cervicovaginal microbiomes of 16 healthy women throughout the three trimesters of pregnancy. Additionally, we analyzed saliva and urine metabolomes using gas chromatography-time of flight mass spectrometry (GC-TOF MS) and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) lipidomics approaches for samples from mothers and their infants through the first year of life. Amplicon sequencing revealed most women had either a simple community with one highly abundant species of Lactobacillus or a more diverse community characterized by a high abundance of Gardnerella, as has also been previously described in several independent cohorts. Integrating GC-TOF MS and lipidomics data with amplicon sequencing, we found metabolites that distinctly associate with particular communities. For example, cervicovaginal microbial communities dominated by Lactobacillus crispatus have high mannitol levels, which is unexpected given the characterization of L. crispatus as a homofermentative Lactobacillus species. It may be that fluctuations in which Lactobacillus dominate a particular vaginal microbiome are dictated by the availability of host sugars, such as fructose, which is the most likely substrate being converted to mannitol. Overall, using a multi-"omic" approach, we begin to address the genetic and molecular means by which a particular vaginal microbiome becomes vulnerable to large changes in composition.IMPORTANCE Humans have a unique vaginal microbiome compared to other mammals, characterized by low diversity and often dominated by Lactobacillus spp. Dramatic shifts in vaginal microbial communities sometimes contribute to the presence of a polymicrobial overgrowth condition called bacterial vaginosis (BV). However, many healthy women lacking BV symptoms have vaginal microbiomes dominated by microbes associated with BV, resulting in debate about the definition of a healthy vaginal microbiome. Despite substantial evidence that the reproductive health of a woman depends on the vaginal microbiota, future therapies that may improve reproductive health outcomes are stalled due to limited understanding surrounding the ecology of the vaginal microbiome. Here, we use sequencing and metabolomic techniques to show novel associations between vaginal microbes and metabolites during healthy pregnancy. We speculate these associations underlie microbiome dynamics and may contribute to a better understanding of transitions between alternative vaginal microbiome compositions.

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