Potential for using a hermetically-sealed, positive-pressured isocage system for studies involving germ-free mice outside a flexible-film isolator

Jisun Paik, Olesya Pershutkina, Stacey Meeker, Jaehun J Yi, Susan Dowling, Charlie Hsu, Adeline M Hajjar, Lillian Maggio-Price, David A C Beck
Gut Microbes 2015 July 4, 6 (4): 255-65
Germ-free mice are used to examine questions about the role of the gut microbiota in development of diseases. Generally these animals are maintained in semi-rigid or flexible-film isolators to ensure their continued sterility or, if colonized with specific microbiota, to ensure that no new species are introduced. Here, we describe the use of a caging system in which individual cages are hermetically sealed and have their own filtered positive airflow. This isopositive caging system requires less space and reduces animal housing costs. By using strict sterile techniques, we kept mice germ-free in this caging system for 12 weeks. We also used this caging system and approach to conduct studies evaluating a) the stability of the microbiome in germ-free mice receiving a fecal transplant and b) the stability of dietary-induced microbiota changes in fecal-transplanted mice. As has been shown in fecal transfer studies in isolators, we found that the transferred microbiota stabilizes as early as 2 weeks post transfer although recipient microbiota did not completely recapitulate those of the donors. Interestingly, we also noted some sex effects in these studies indicating that the sex of recipients or donors may play a role in colonization of microbiota. However, a larger study will be needed to determine what role, if any, sex plays in colonization of microbiota. Based on our studies, an isopositive caging system may be utilized to test multiple donor samples for their effects on phenotypes of mice in both normal and disease states even with limited available space for housing.

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