Research Highlights: Why Giant Pandas Remain Chubby Despite Low-Fat Diet?

panda bear eating bamboo leaves in zoo
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Why Giant Pandas Remain Chubby Despite Low-Fat Diet?

  • Changes in diet can lead to changes in the characteristics of gut microbiome.
  • However, the effects of gut microbiome characteristic changes remain unclear.
  • Researchers performed fecal microbiota transplantation or FMT of diet-specific feces from a giant panda into a germ-free mouse.
  • Researchers discovered that the bacterium Clostridium butyricum was greater in number when the giant panda ate more bamboo shoots than bamboo leaves.
  • C. butyricum is an anaerobic endospore-forming Gram-positive bacteria that produces butyrate.[1]
  • Eating more bamboo shoots was also correlated with significant increase in body mass.
  • After the stool transplant, the gut microbiome of the mouse resembled that of the giant panda.
  • Mice transplanted with stool microbiota from giant panda who ate more bamboo shoots grew faster and became more chubby.
  • Researchers discovered that butyrate extended the activity of a hepatic circadian gene which then increases the production of phospholipids.
  • Phospholipid is a fatty phosphorus-containing molecule that play important structural/metabolic roles in cells.[2]
  • The research study highlights the effects of seasonal shifts in the gut microbiome on host’s growth performance and allows an in-depth understanding of host-bacteria interactions in wild animals.


Guangping Huang, Le Wang, Jian Li, Rong Hou, Meng Wang, Zhilin Wang, Qingyue Qu, Wenliang Zhou, Yonggang Nie, Yibo Hu, Yingjie Ma, Li Yan, Hong Wei, Fuwen Wei. Seasonal shift of the gut microbiome synchronizes host peripheral circadian rhythm for physiological adaptation to a low-fat diet in the giant panda. Cell Reports, 2022; 38 (3): 110203 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.110203



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