This experiment was conducted to investigate the effect of exposure to high altitude and low oxygen on intestinal microbial communities using mice as an animal model. Fecal microbiota from mice housed in a control environment representing 2,200 meters (NC group) above sea level with 16% Oxygen and mice that were placed in a hypobaric chamber representing 5000 meters (HC group) above sea level with 11% Oxygen for 30 days, were analyzed by the HiSeq Illumina sequencing platform. The results showed a significant difference in beta diversity observed between the two groups, while no significant difference was observed in alpha diversity.

Compared with the NC group, the relative abundance of class Epsilonproteobacteria, phlym Actinobacteria, class Erysipelotrichia and genus Helicobacter were significantly lower (P<0.05), while the relative abundance of genus Alistipes was increased in the HC group; Phenotypic analysis showed no significant difference in aerobic, anaerobic, facultatively anaerobic, potentially pathogenic, stress tolerant, mobile element, biofilms formation, gram negative and gram positive between HC group and NC group; Functional analysis results showed significant differences in 34 gene functional metabolic pathways (carbohydrate digestion and absorption, energy metabolism, arachidonic acid metabolism, flavonoid biosynthesis, RIG-I-like receptor signaling pathway, etc) between HC group and NC group.

Together, these findings suggest that exposure to high altitude and low oxygen had the potential to change the intestinal microbial communities, which potentially may modulate metabolic processes in mice.