Zhang, X., Wang, X., Ayala, J. et al. 2022. Possible effects of early maternal separation on the gut microbiota of captive adult giant pandas. Animals 12(19), 2587.

Maternal deprivation (MD) in early life induces dysbiosis in the host gut microbiota, which is a key determinant of abnormal behavior in stress model individuals. Compared with the early parenting environment of the wild, captive giant pandas face frequent and premature maternal separation. Will this lead to imbalance in intestinal flora and stress in captive giant pandas? The purpose of this research is to evaluate the possible adverse effects of the traditional parenting mode on the gut microbiota of captive giant pandas. The results showed that the frequent and premature maternal separation at early stages of the young did not change α and β diversity indices of the gut microbes, but it increased the relative abundance of s_Clostridium_tetani and s_Clostridium_sp_MSJ_8 (significantly positively correlated with the metabolism of propionic acid) and also the concentrations of fecal metabolites that are related to stress (N-acetyl-l-aspartic acid and corticosterone) in the intestinal tract of giant pandas in adulthood. Thereby, the function of protein digestion and absorption in the intestines of captive giant pandas was decreased, and the metabolism of short-chain fatty acids was disturbed. In conclusion, the parenting experience of early maternal separation could adversely affect the stress caused by the unfavorable parenting environment in the early life of captive giant pandas related to the gut microbiota of the captive giant pandas in adulthood.

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