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Chronic Dietary Zinc Deficiency Alters Gut Microbiota Composition and Function
* 1 , 2
1  Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Stocking Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-7201, USA
2  Azrieli Faculty of Medicine, Bar-Ilan University, Safed, 1311502, Israel.


Zinc (Zn) deficiency is a prevalent micronutrient insufficiency. Although the gut is a vital organ for Zn utilization, and Zn deficiency is associated with impaired intestinal permeability and a global decrease in gastrointestinal health, alterations in the gut microbial ecology of the host under conditions of Zn deficiency have yet to be studied. By conducting a series of long term in vivo (Gallus gallus) feeding trials, we aimed to characterize distinct cecal microbiota shifts induced by chronic dietary Zn depletion, and in the context of complete diets are based on Zn biofortified food crops that are relevant to target populations, and in geographical regions where dietary Zn deficiency in a major health concern. We demonstrate that Zn deficiency induces significant taxonomic alterations and decreases overall species richness and diversity, establishing a microbial profile resembling that of various other pathological states. Through metagenomic analysis, we show that predicted Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathways responsible for macro- and micronutrient uptake are significantly depleted under Zn deficiency; along with concomitant decreases in beneficial short chain fatty acids, such depletions may further preclude optimal host Zn availability. We also identify several candidate microbes that may play a significant role in modulating the bioavailability and utilization of dietary Zn during prolonged deficiency. Our results are the first to characterize a unique and dysbiotic cecal microbiota during Zn deficiency, and provide evidence for such microbial perturbations as potential effectors of the Zn deficient phenotype.

Keywords: Dietary Zinc Deficiency; Intestine; Brush Border Membrane functionality; Microbiome Composition and Function; In vivo