In vitro gut microbiota models are often used to study drug-microbiome interaction. Similar to culturing individual microbial strains, the biomass accumulation of in vitro gut microbiota follows a logistic growth curve. Current studies on in vitro gut microbiome responses introduce drug stimulation during different growth stages, e.g. lag phase or stationary phase. However, in vitro gut microbiota in different growth phases may respond differently to same stimuli. Therefore, in this study, we used a 96-deep well plate-based culturing model (MiPro) to culture the human gut microbiota. Metformin, as the stimulus, was added at the lag, log and stationary phases of growth. Microbiome samples were collected at different time points for optical density and metaproteomic functional analysis. Results show that in vitro gut microbiota responded differently to metformin added during different growth phases, in terms of the growth curve, alterations of taxonomic and functional compositions. The addition of drugs at log phase leads to the greatest decline of bacterial growth. Metaproteomic analysis suggested that the strength of the metformin effect on the gut microbiome functional profile was ranked as lag phase > log phase > stationary phase. Our results showed that metformin added at lag phase resulted in a significantly reduced abundance of the Clostridiales order as well as an increased abundance of the Bacteroides genus, which was different from stimulation during the rest of the growth phase. Metformin also resulted in alterations of several pathways, including energy production and conversion, lipid transport and metabolism, translation, ribosomal structure and biogenesis. Our results indicate that the timing for drug stimulation should be considered when studying drug-microbiome interactions in vitro.
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