The gut microbiome is significantly altered in inflammatory bowel diseases, but the basis of these changes is not well understood. We have combined metagenomic and metatranscriptomic profiling of the gut microbiome to assess modifications to both bacterial community structure and transcriptional activity in a mouse model of colitis. By using transcriptomic analysis of colonic tissue and luminal RNA derived from the host, we have also characterised how host transcription relates to the microbial transcriptional response in inflammation. In colitis, increased abundance and transcription of diverse microbial gene families involved in responses to nutrient deprivation, antimicrobial peptide production and oxidative stress support an adaptation of multiple commensal genera to withstand a diverse set of environmental stressors in the inflammatory environment. These data are supported by a transcriptional signature of activated macrophages and granulocytes in the gut lumen during colitis, a signature that includes the transcription of the key antimicrobial genes S100a8 and S100a9 (calprotectin). Genes involved in microbial resistance to oxidative stress, including Dps/ferritin, Fe-dependent peroxidase and glutathione S-transferase were identified as changing to a greater extent at the level of transcription than would be predicted by DNA abundance changes, implicating a role for increased oxygen tension and/or host-derived reactive oxygen species in driving transcriptional changes in commensal microbes.
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