Stephens, W.Z., Wiles, T.J., Martinez, E.S., Jemielita, M., Burns, A.R., Parthasarathy, R., Bohannan, B.J., Guillemin, K. (2015) Identification of Population Bottlenecks and Colonization Factors during Assembly of Bacterial Communities within the Zebrafish Intestine. mBio. 6(6):e01163-15.
The zebrafish, Danio rerio, is a powerful model for studying bacterial colonization of the vertebrate intestine, but the genes required by commensal bacteria to colonize the zebrafish gut have not yet been interrogated on a genome-wide level. Here we apply a high-throughput transposon mutagenesis screen to Aeromonas veronii Hm21 and Vibrio sp. strain ZWU0020 during their colonization of the zebrafish intestine alone and in competition with each other, as well as in different colonization orders. We use these transposon-tagged libraries to track bacterial population sizes in different colonization regimes and to identify gene functions required during these processes. We show that intraspecific, but not interspecific, competition with a previously established bacterial population greatly reduces the ability of these two bacterial species to colonize. Further, using a simple binomial sampling model, we show that under conditions of interspecific competition, genes required for colonization cannot be identified because of the population bottleneck experienced by the second colonizer. When bacteria colonize the intestine alone or at the same time as the other species, we find shared suites of functional requirements for colonization by the two species, including a prominent role for chemotaxis and motility, regardless of the presence of another species.
Importance Zebrafish larvae, which are amenable to large-scale gnotobiotic studies, comprehensive sampling of their intestinal microbiota, and live imaging, are an excellent model for investigations of vertebrate intestinal colonization dynamics. We sought to develop a mutagenesis and tagging system in order to understand bacterial population dynamics and functional requirements during colonization of the larval zebrafish intestine. We explored changes in bacterial colonization dynamics and functional requirements when bacteria colonize a bacterium-free intestine, one previously colonized by their own species, or one colonized previously or simultaneously with a different species. This work provides a framework for rapid identification of colonization factors important under different colonization conditions. Furthermore, we demonstrate that when colonizing bacterial populations are very small, this approach is not accurate because random sampling of the input pool is sufficient to explain the distribution of inserts recovered from bacteria that colonized the intestines.