USDA Awards Grant to Study Variation in Gut Microbial Metabolism

Federico Rey (bacteriology) recently received funding from the USDA to study the interpersonal variation in gut microbial metabolism of nutrients and cardiometabolic disease. Rey’s new grant stemmed from the 2016–17 pilot, “The Role of Early Life Experiences in Shaping the Gut Microbiome: A Study Incorporating the Microbiome into the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study.”




Grant Number


Principal Investigator

Federico Rey | University of Wisconsin–Madison | Bacteriology


This proposal aims to determine the relationship between variation in the gut microbial communities among individuals and the health benefits obtained from the consumption of legumes and whole-grains. These foods represent major sources of fiber among US consumers and have been associated with protective effects against cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, clinical intervention studies have revealed a large degree of interpersonal variation in the effects associated with their consumption, with a subset of individuals not exhibiting any benefits. Furthermore, we cannot currently predict who will benefit from their consumption. Our preliminary work suggests that protection against CVD associated with consumption of a high-fiber diet is modulated by the types of bacteria present in the gut of the consumer. We hypothesize that gut microbial breakdown and metabolism of legumes and whole grains represents an important and differential factor that modulates the benefits associated these foods. We will transplant gut microbial communities (i.e., feces) from healthy individuals and subjects with CVD into groups of otherwise genetically identical germ-free mice, that will be fed defined diets containing whole grains or legumes, and test for associations between gut microbes and development of CVD. These studies will provide insights into the roles of gut microbes in mediating the benefits associated with consumption of whole grains and legumes. Importantly, these results will be used to identify novel probiotics that may be given together with these foods to enhance their beneficial effects.