α-Linolenic Acid-Rich Diet Influences Microbiota Composition and Villus Morphology of the Mouse Small Intestine.
α-Linolenic acid (ALA) is well-known for its anti-inflammatory activity. In contrast, the influence of an ALA-rich diet on intestinal microbiota composition and its impact on small intestine morphology are not fully understood. In the current study, we kept adult C57BL/6J mice for 4 weeks on an ALA-rich or control diet. Characterization of the microbial composition of the small intestine revealed that the ALA diet was associated with an enrichment in Prevotella and Parabacteroides. In contrast, taxa belonging to the Firmicutes phylum, including Lactobacillus, Clostridium cluster XIVa, Lachnospiraceae and Streptococcus, had significantly lower abundance compared to control diet. Metagenome prediction indicated an enrichment in functional pathways such as bacterial secretion system in the ALA group, whereas the two-component system and ALA metabolism pathways were downregulated. We also observed increased levels of ALA and its metabolites eicosapentanoic and docosahexanoic acid, but reduced levels of arachidonic acid in the intestinal tissue of ALA-fed mice. Furthermore, intestinal morphology in the ALA group was characterized by elongated villus structures with increased counts of epithelial cells and reduced epithelial proliferation rate. Interestingly, the ALA diet reduced relative goblet and Paneth cell counts. Of note, high-fat Western-type diet feeding resulted in a comparable adaptation of the small intestine. Collectively, our study demonstrates the impact of ALA on the gut microbiome and reveals the nutritional regulation of gut morphology.