Investigating arsenic-microbiome interactions in the gut using murine models
Coryell, Michael Philip
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Drinking water contamination with arsenic is a wide-spread public health concern, potentially affecting over 140 million people across at least 40 different countries. Current understanding of biological and behavioral factors influencing clinical outcomes is insufficient to explain the variation observed in arsenic-related disease prevalence and severity. The intestinal microbiome in humans is a dynamic and active ecosystem with demonstrated potential to mediate arsenic metabolism in vitro and distinct variability between individuals. This dissertation investigates arsenic-microbiome interactions, with a focus on determining how microbiome activity influences host-response and toxicity from arsenic exposures. Chapter 2 overviews common exposure routes, important metabolic pathways, and current evidence of arsenic-microbiome interactions in humans or experimental animal models. Chapter 3, the initial approach was to experimentally perturb the microbiome of common laboratory mice during arsenic exposure, measuring arsenic excretion in the stool and accumulation in host tissues. Arsenic sensitive gene-knockout mice were used to determine the microbiome's influence on subacute arsenic-induced mortality. Disrupting microbiome function--first by antibiotic treatment, then by deriving mice germ free--dramatically reduced survival times during severe arsenic exposures. Transplantation of human fecal communities into germ free mice effectively complemented the loss of function from microbiome disruption in these mice. Chapter 4 examines microbiome's impact on arsenic metabolism in germ free and conventional mice from this same arsenic-sensitive genetic background. These mice are deficient for the primary metabolic pathway involved in arsenic detoxification in both humans and mice, facilitating a more complete experimental isolation of microbiome and host metabolisms. This study provides evidence of microbiome-dependent changes in the elimination routes and metabolic transformation of ingested arsenic and provides a new experimental model for studying arsenic metabolism in the gut.