Introduction: An association has been found between human-gut microbiota and various diseases (e.g., metabolic disease) by analyzing fecal or colonic microbiota. Despite the importance of the small intestinal microbiota, sampling difficulties prevent its full analysis. We investigated the composition and metagenomic functions of microbiota along the small intestine and compared them with the microbiota from feces and from other gastrointestinal (GI) sites. Methods: Mucosal samples from the six GI sites (stomach, duodenum, distal jejunum, proximal ileum, terminal ileum, and rectum) were collected under balloon-assisted enteroscopy. Fecal samples were collected from all participants. The microbial structures and metagenomic functions of the small intestinal mucosal microbiota were compared with those from feces and other GI sites using 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing. Results: We analyzed 133 samples from 29 participants. Microbial beta diversity analysis showed that the jejunum and ileum differed significantly from the lower GI tract and the feces (p < 0.001). Jejunal and duodenal microbiotas formed similar clusters. Wide clusters spanning the upper and lower GI tracts were observed with the ileal microbiota, which differed significantly from the jejunal microbiota (p < 0.001). Veillonella and Streptococcus were abundant in the jejunum but less so in the lower GI tract and feces. The metagenomic functions associated with nutrient metabolism differed significantly between the small intestine and the feces. Conclusions: The fact that the compositional structures of small intestinal microbiota differed from those of fecal and other GI microbiotas reveals that analyzing the small intestinal microbiota is necessary for association studies on metabolic diseases and gut microbiota.
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