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      The Human Intestinal Microbiome in Health and Disease

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      New England Journal of Medicine

      Massachusetts Medical Society

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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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            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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              A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins

              The human distal gut harbors a vast ensemble of microbes (the microbiota) that provide us with important metabolic capabilities, including the ability to extract energy from otherwise indigestible dietary polysaccharides1–6. Studies of a small number of unrelated, healthy adults have revealed substantial diversity in their gut communities, as measured by sequencing 16S rRNA genes6–8, yet how this diversity relates to function and to the rest of the genes in the collective genomes of the microbiota (the gut microbiome) remains obscure. Studies of lean and obese mice suggest that the gut microbiota affects energy balance by influencing the efficiency of calorie harvest from the diet, and how this harvested energy is utilized and stored3–5. To address the question of how host genotype, environmental exposures, and host adiposity influence the gut microbiome, we have characterized the fecal microbial communities of adult female monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs concordant for leanness or obesity, and their mothers. Analysis of 154 individuals yielded 9,920 near full-length and 1,937,461 partial bacterial 16S rRNA sequences, plus 2.14 gigabases from their microbiomes. The results reveal that the human gut microbiome is shared among family members, but that each person’s gut microbial community varies in the specific bacterial lineages present, with a comparable degree of co-variation between adult monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs. However, there was a wide array of shared microbial genes among sampled individuals, comprising an extensive, identifiable ‘core microbiome’ at the gene, rather than at the organismal lineage level. Obesity is associated with phylum-level changes in the microbiota, reduced bacterial diversity, and altered representation of bacterial genes and metabolic pathways. These results demonstrate that a diversity of organismal assemblages can nonetheless yield a core microbiome at a functional level, and that deviations from this core are associated with different physiologic states (obese versus lean).
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                New England Journal of Medicine
                N Engl J Med
                Massachusetts Medical Society
                0028-4793
                1533-4406
                December 15 2016
                December 15 2016
                : 375
                : 24
                : 2369-2379
                Article
                10.1056/NEJMra1600266
                27974040
                © 2016
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