Biodiv Sci ›› 2019, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (5): 505-515.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2019042

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The role of model animals in the study of symbiotic microorganisms

Xiao Yaqian1,Liu Chuan2,Xiao Liang2,*()   

  1. 1 College of Water Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875
    2 BGI-Shenzhen, Shenzhen, Guangdong 518000
  • Received:2019-02-21 Accepted:2019-04-29 Online:2019-05-20 Published:2019-10-12
  • Contact: Xiao Liang


Symbiotic microorganisms colonize external or internal surfaces of a host depending on environmental factors, and may supply the host with special functions. More and more researchers have proven that symbiotic gut microorganisms are related to a diverse range of physiological functions of a host including immunity, nutrition, metabolism and even mental health. Thus, gut microorganisms comprise an important “microbial organ” in humans. Since the early days of microbiota research, animal models have been used frequently for their microbiota, contributing greatly to new research in this field. This review provides an overview of animals used as models in symbiotic microorganism studies, including zebrafish (Danio rerio), mice (Mus musculus), pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus), and monkeys (Macaca mulatta). We provide insight into the development and characteristics of these model animals, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of each model, as well as any outstanding scientific achievements based on their use. We also note that honey bee (Apis), fruit fly (Drosophila) and nematode (Caenorhabditis elegans) models are emerging as more prevalent in recent gut microbiota studies. This paper will contribute to better understanding the similarities and differences between the microbiota of model animals and humans, while providing useful information for effectively implementing these animal models in future research.

Key words: symbiotic microorganisms, host, animal models, gut microbiota