Studies in multiple host species have shown that gut microbial diversity and composition change during pregnancy and lactation. However, the specific mechanisms underlying these shifts are not well understood. Here, we use longitudinal data from wild Phayre’s leaf monkeys to test the hypothesis that fluctuations in reproductive hormone concentrations contribute to gut microbial shifts during pregnancy. We described the microbial taxonomic composition of 91 fecal samples from 15 females (n = 16 cycling, n = 36 pregnant, n = 39 lactating) using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and assessed whether the resulting data were better explained by overall reproductive stage or by fecal estrogen (fE) and progesterone (fP) concentrations. Our results indicate that while overall reproductive stage affected gut microbiome composition, the observed patterns were driven by reproductive hormones. Females had lower gut microbial diversity during pregnancy and fP concentrations were negatively correlated with diversity. Additionally, fP concentrations predicted both unweighted and weighted UniFrac distances, while reproductive state only predicted unweighted UniFrac distances. Seasonality (rainfall and periods of phytoprogestin consumption) additionally influenced gut microbial diversity and composition. Our results indicate that reproductive hormones, specifically progestagens, contribute to the shifts in the gut microbiome during pregnancy and lactation.
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