The perinatal period is a critical window for the development of the infant’s cognitive and immune systems, facilitated by the maternal and infant gut flora and its metabolites.
However, the co-development of the perinatal microbiota and metabolome, as well as the determinants of this process, are unknown.
Recently, in a study published in Cell, researchers identified a new model for the vertical transmission of the mother-infant microbiota.
From the perinatal period through the first few weeks of life, microbes in the maternal gut share genes with microbes in the infant’s gut.
By using longitudinal multi-omics data from 70 mother-infant pairs, the researchers tracked the co-development of the microbiome and metabolome from late pregnancy through the infant’s first year.
They identified maternal-infant transfer of large-scale movable genetic factors, mainly involving diet-related genes.
The researchers also found that the infant gut metabolome is less diverse than the mother’s metabolome, but has hundreds of unique metabolites and microbial-metabolite associations.
In addition, the metabolome and serum cytokine profiles of infants receiving conventional but not extensively hydrolyzed formula differ from those of exclusively breastfed infants.
And in addition to the classical vertical transmission of strains and species, the maternal microbiome may shape the infant gut microbiome through horizontal gene transfer.
This study extends the concept of vertical transmission of the gut microbiome.
It also provides new insights into the development of maternal and infant microbiomes and metabolomes in late pregnancy and the early postpartum period.