BACKGROUND: The human gut microbiota interacts closely with human diet and physiology. To better understand the mechanisms behind this relationship, gut microbiome research relies on complementing human studies with manipulations of animal models, including non-human primates. However, due to unique aspects of human diet and physiology, it is likely that host-gut microbe interactions operate differently in humans and non-human primates.
RESULTS: Here, we show that the human microbiome reacts differently to a high-protein, high-fat Western diet than that of a model primate, the African green monkey, or vervet (Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus). Specifically, humans exhibit increased relative abundance of Firmicutes and reduced relative abundance of Prevotella on a Western diet while vervets show the opposite pattern. Predictive metagenomics demonstrate an increased relative abundance of genes associated with carbohydrate metabolism in the microbiome of only humans consuming a Western diet.
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that the human gut microbiota has unique properties that are a result of changes in human diet and physiology across evolution or that may have contributed to the evolution of human physiology. Therefore, the role of animal models for understanding the relationship between the human gut microbiota and host metabolism must be re-focused.