Our colons harbor trillions of microbes including a prominent archaeon, Methanobrevibacter smithii. To examine the contributions of Archaea to digestive health, we colonized germ-free mice with Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, an adaptive bacterial forager of the polysaccharides that we consume, with or without M. smithii or the sulfate-reducing bacterium Desulfovibrio piger. Whole-genome transcriptional profiling of B. thetaiotaomicron. combined with mass spectrometry, revealed that, unlike D. piger, M. smithii directs B. thetaiotaomicron to focus on fermentation of dietary fructans to acetate, whereas B. thetaiotaomicron-derived formate is used by M. smithii for methanogenesis. B. thetaiotaomicron-M. smithii cocolonization produces a significant increase in host adiposity compared with monoassociated, or B. thetaiotaomicron-D. piger biassociated, animals. These findings demonstrate a link between this archaeon, prioritized bacterial utilization of polysaccharides commonly encountered in our modern diets, and host energy balance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10011-10016
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jun 27 2006


  • Adiposity
  • Energy homeostasis
  • Gut microbial ecology
  • Methanobrevibacter smithii
  • Polysaccharide metabolism


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