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Diversity, stability and resilience of the human gut microbiota

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      Structure, Function and Diversity of the Healthy Human Microbiome

      Studies of the human microbiome have revealed that even healthy individuals differ remarkably in the microbes that occupy habitats such as the gut, skin, and vagina. Much of this diversity remains unexplained, although diet, environment, host genetics, and early microbial exposure have all been implicated. Accordingly, to characterize the ecology of human-associated microbial communities, the Human Microbiome Project has analyzed the largest cohort and set of distinct, clinically relevant body habitats to date. We found the diversity and abundance of each habitat’s signature microbes to vary widely even among healthy subjects, with strong niche specialization both within and among individuals. The project encountered an estimated 81–99% of the genera, enzyme families, and community configurations occupied by the healthy Western microbiome. Metagenomic carriage of metabolic pathways was stable among individuals despite variation in community structure, and ethnic/racial background proved to be one of the strongest associations of both pathways and microbes with clinical metadata. These results thus delineate the range of structural and functional configurations normal in the microbial communities of a healthy population, enabling future characterization of the epidemiology, ecology, and translational applications of the human microbiome.
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        An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest.

        The worldwide obesity epidemic is stimulating efforts to identify host and environmental factors that affect energy balance. Comparisons of the distal gut microbiota of genetically obese mice and their lean littermates, as well as those of obese and lean human volunteers have revealed that obesity is associated with changes in the relative abundance of the two dominant bacterial divisions, the Bacteroidetes and the Firmicutes. Here we demonstrate through metagenomic and biochemical analyses that these changes affect the metabolic potential of the mouse gut microbiota. Our results indicate that the obese microbiome has an increased capacity to harvest energy from the diet. Furthermore, this trait is transmissible: colonization of germ-free mice with an 'obese microbiota' results in a significantly greater increase in total body fat than colonization with a 'lean microbiota'. These results identify the gut microbiota as an additional contributing factor to the pathophysiology of obesity.
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          A human gut microbial gene catalogue established by metagenomic sequencing.

          To understand the impact of gut microbes on human health and well-being it is crucial to assess their genetic potential. Here we describe the Illumina-based metagenomic sequencing, assembly and characterization of 3.3 million non-redundant microbial genes, derived from 576.7 gigabases of sequence, from faecal samples of 124 European individuals. The gene set, approximately 150 times larger than the human gene complement, contains an overwhelming majority of the prevalent (more frequent) microbial genes of the cohort and probably includes a large proportion of the prevalent human intestinal microbial genes. The genes are largely shared among individuals of the cohort. Over 99% of the genes are bacterial, indicating that the entire cohort harbours between 1,000 and 1,150 prevalent bacterial species and each individual at least 160 such species, which are also largely shared. We define and describe the minimal gut metagenome and the minimal gut bacterial genome in terms of functions present in all individuals and most bacteria, respectively.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            Nature
            Nature
            Springer Science and Business Media LLC
            0028-0836
            1476-4687
            September 2012
            September 12 2012
            September 2012
            : 489
            : 7415
            : 220-230
            10.1038/nature11550
            © 2012

            http://www.springer.com/tdm

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