We have developed a new approach for monitoring the metabolic dynamics in microbial ecosystems using a combination of DNA fingerprinting and metabolome analysis based on stable-isotope-labeling technologies. Stable-isotope probing of DNA (DNA-SIP) has been used previously for the evaluation of cross-feeding in microbial communities. For the development and validation of our monitoring approach, fecal microbiota were analyzed with stable-isotope-labeled glucose used as the sole carbon source. In order to link the metabolic information and the microbial variability, we performed metabolic-microbial correlation analysis based on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) profiles and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) fingerprints, which successfully identified the glucose-utilizing bacteria and their related extracellular metabolites. Moreover, our approach revealed information regarding the carbon flux, in that the "first" wave of extracellular metabolites secreted by the glucose-utilizing bacteria were incorporated into the "secondary" group of substrate-utilizing bacteria, and that this "secondary" group further produced their own secondary metabolized substrates. Thus, this approach is a powerful tool for monitoring the metabolic dynamics in microbial ecosystems and allows for the tracking of the carbon flux within a microbial community.
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