Background: The microbiota of the digestive and reproductive systems has a prominent role in animal health and performance, but the extent of its contribution is difﬁcult to determine. In chickens, the effect of host genetics on the reproductive and digestive tract microbiota is unclear, and the means by which digestive/reproductive microbiomes help improve egg production in chicken are unknown.
Results: To gain insight into this, we examined genomes from 128 chickens reared under identical conditions and described their digestive (crop, gizzard and small intestine) and reproductive tract (vagina, uterus and isthmus) microbiota. Although the diversity, composition and predicted function of the digestive and reproductive tract microbiota exhibited notable microbiota variation substantially between different parts, host genetics had limited effects on the reproductive and digestive tract microbial community. The digestive and reproductive tract microbiota had a significant effect on egg production (accounting for 52.31% - 98.86% of the variance), after correcting for host genetic effects; in particular, the uterus and isthmus microbiota accounted for an average of 93.59% and 98.86%, respectively, of variance in egg production. We further identiﬁed four reproductive tract microbial species which were related to immune system, Bacteroides fragilis, Bacteroides salanitronis, Bacteroides barnesiae and Clostridium leptum, that were signiﬁcantly positively correlated with egg production. Chickens with a lower abundance of these species had produced signiﬁcantly fewer eggs at 300 days of age (37.13 vs. 113.75) than those with a higher abundance of these microorganisms. These taxa indicate potential roles play in promoting reproductive performance. Especially uterus and isthmus tract microbiota were major factors in regulating the chicken egg production.
Conclusions: Host genetics has limited effect on digestive/reproductive microbiome composition. The distinct site-associated chicken microbiome may be determined by the differences of their physical function. These ﬁndings may help design strategies for controlling and altering the digestive/reproductive tract microbiota in chickens to improve egg production.