Implications of an Altered Gut Microbiome in Rat Experimental Vascularized Composite Transplantation

Ashti M. Shah, Ali M. Aral, Derek A. Barclay, Jinling Yin, Ruben Zamora, Vijay Gorantla, Yoram Vodovotz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Vascularized composite allotransplantation is a reconstructive option after severe injury but is fraught with complications, including transplant rejection due to major histocompatibility complex mismatch in the context of allogeneic transplant, which in turn is due to altered immuno-inflammation secondary to transplant. The immunosuppressant tacrolimus can prevent rejection. Because tacrolimus is metabolized predominantly by the gut, this immunosuppressant alters the gut microbiome in multiple ways, thereby possibly affecting immuno-inflammation. Materials and Methods: We performed either allogeneic or syngeneic transplant with or without tacrolimus in rats. We quantified protein-level inflammatory mediators in the skin, muscle, and plasma and assessed the diversity of the gut microbiome through 16S RNA analysis at several timepoints over 31 days posttransplant. Results: Statistical analysis highlighted a complex interaction between major histocompatibility complex and tacrolimus therapy on the relative diversity of the microbiome. Time-interval principal component analysis indicated numerous significant differences in the tissue characteristics of inflammation and gut microbiome that varied over time and across experimental conditions. Classification and regression tree analysis suggested that both inflammatory mediators in specific tissues and changes in the gut microbiome are useful in characterizing the temporal dynamics of posttransplant inflammation. Dynamic network analysis highlighted unique changes in Methanosphaera that were correlated with Peptococcus in allogeneic transplants with and without tacrolimus versus Prevotella in syngeneic transplant with tacrolimus, suggesting that alterations in Methanosphaera might be a biomarker of vascularized composite allotransplant rejection. Conclusions: Our results suggest a complex interaction among major histocompatibility complex, local and systemic immuno-inflammation, and tacrolimus therapy and highlight the potential for novel insights into vascularized composite allotransplant from computational approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-147
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental and Clinical Transplantation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Allogeneic transplant
  • Dynamic network analysis
  • Syngeneic transplant
  • Systems biology
  • Tacrolimus


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