Starch from corn is less susceptible to equine small intestinal digestion than starch from oats, and starch that reaches the hindgut can be utilized by the microbiota. The objective of the current study was to examine the effects of starch source on equine fecal microbiota. Thirty horses were assigned to treatments: control (hay only), HC (high corn), HO (high oats), LC (low corn), LO (low oats), and LW (low pelleted wheat middlings). Horses received an all-forage diet (2 wk; d -14 to d -1) before the treatment diets (2 wk; d 1 to 14). Starch was introduced gradually so that horses received 50% of the assigned starch amount (high = 2 g starch/kg BW; low = 1 g starch/kg BW) by d 4 and 100% by d 11. Fecal samples were obtained at the end of the forage-only period (S0; d -2), and on d 6 (S1) and d 13 (S2) of the treatment period. Cellulolytics, lactobacilli, Group D Gram-positive cocci (GPC), lactate-utilizers and amylolytics were enumerated. Enumeration data were log transformed and analyzed by repeated measures ANOVA. There were sample day × treatment interactions (P < 0.0001) for all bacteria enumerated. Enumerations from control horses did not change during the sampling period (P > 0.05). All treatments except LO resulted in increased amylolytics and decreased cellulolytics, but the changes were larger in horses fed corn and wheat middlings (P < 0.05). Feeding oats resulted in increased lactobacilli and decreased GPC (P < 0.05), while corn had the opposite effects. LW had increased lactobacilli and GPC (P < 0.05). The predominant amylolytic isolates from HC, LC and LW on S2 were identified by 16S RNA gene sequencing as Enterococcus faecalis, but other species were found in oat fed horses. These results demonstrate that starch source can have a differential effect on the equine fecal microbiota.

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Published in PLOS ONE, v. 11, no. 4, e0154037, p. 1-21.

This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

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This work is supported by: a competitive grant from the Prairie Oat Growers Association. Principle investigator: LML, Co-investigator: MDF. The National Institutes of Food and Agriculture via Hatch: Principle investigator: LML. Salary for MDF was provided by USDA-ARS, National Program 215.

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The information reported in this article (No. 15-07-084) is part of a project of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station and is published with the approval of the Director.

journal.pone.0154037.s001.DOCX (114 kB)
S1 Table. Equine amylolytic isolate closest phylogenetic relative (> 97% 16S gene sequence identity) and characterization.