MSTP in PhD Training
Program: Computational and Systems Biology
Current advisor: Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD
Undergraduate university: University of California-Berkeley, 2018
Enrollment year: 2020
Prevotella copri mediates host ponderal growth and dietary glycan crossfeeding to other bacteria
Undernutrition remains a persistent challenge globally and is linked to 45% of deaths of children under the age of 5. Intestinal abundance of Prevotella copri has been associated with increased weight for length Z-score (WLZ) in clinical studies of therapeutic foods for moderate acute malnutrition. We have developed a gnotobiotic mouse model of a defined microbial community consisting of bacterial taxa representing the developmental trajectory of the Bangladeshi microbiota of healthy children. Assembling this community with and without P. copri reveals that P. copri promotes ponderal growth (weight gain) on a background diet supplemented with therapeutic food and leads to increased dietary glycan degradation of arabinans, galactans, and pectin through a diverse set of polysaccharide utilization loci. We additionally observe increased fitness and expression of genes involved in arabinose utilization by bacteria capable of metabolizing it, as well as profoundly different cecal profiles of bile acids, amino acids, short chain fatty acids, and other microbial metabolites with known signaling function. Using a combination of in vitro, in vivo, and computational techniques, I seek to understand how P. copri colonization promotes changes in host metabolic state leading to ponderal growth and how microbial metabolites produced by P. copri and other commensals affect enterocyte and epithelial biology along the length of the gastrointestinal tract.