Background: The gut microbiota can have dramatic effects on host metabolism; however, current genomic strategies for uncultured bacteria have several limitations that hinder their ability to identify responders to metabolic changes in the microbiota. In this study, we describe a novel single-cell genomic sequencing technique that can identify metabolic responders at the species level without the need for reference genomes, and apply this method to identify bacterial responders to an inulin-based diet in the mouse gut microbiota. Results: Inulin-feeding changed the mouse fecal microbiome composition to increase Bacteroides spp., resulting in the production of abundant succinate in the mouse intestine. Using our massively parallel single-cell genome sequencing technique, named SAG-gel platform, we obtained 346 single-amplified genomes (SAGs) from mouse gut microbes before and after dietary inulin supplementation. After quality control, the SAGs were classified as 267 bacteria, spanning 2 phyla, 4 classes, 7 orders, and 14 families, and 31 different strains of SAGs were graded as high- and medium-quality draft genomes. From these, we have successfully obtained the genomes of the dominant inulin-responders, Bacteroides spp., and identified their polysaccharide utilization loci and their specific metabolic pathways for succinate production. Conclusions: Our single-cell genomics approach generated a massive amount of SAGs, enabling a functional analysis of uncultured bacteria in the intestinal microbiome. This enabled us to estimate metabolic lineages involved in the bacterial fermentation of dietary fiber and metabolic outcomes such as short-chain fatty acid production in the intestinal environment based on the fibers ingested. The technique allows the in-depth isolation and characterization of uncultured bacteria with specific functions in the microbiota and could be exploited to improve human and animal health. [MediaObject not available: see fulltext.].
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