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      Long-Term Temporal Analysis of the Human Fecal Microbiota Revealed a Stable Core of Dominant Bacterial Species


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          Next-generation sequencing has greatly contributed to an improved ecological understanding of the human gut microbiota. Nevertheless, questions remain regarding the characteristics of this ecosystem and the ecological processes that shape it, and controversy has arisen regarding the stability of the bacterial populations and the existence of a temporal core. In this study, we have characterized the fecal microbial communities of three human individuals over a one-year period by 454 pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA tags in order to investigate the temporal characteristics of the bacterial communities. The findings revealed a temporal core of 33 to 40 species-level Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) within subjects. Although these OTUs accounted only for around 12% of the total OTUs detected, they added up to >75% of the total sequences obtained for each individual. In order to determine the capacity of the sequencing and bioinformatic approaches applied during this study to accurately determine the proportion of a core microbiota, we analyzed the fecal microbiota of nine mice with a defined three-member community. This experiment revealed that the sequencing approach inflated the amount of rare OTUs, which introduced a significant degree of artificial variation across samples, and hence reduced the apparent fraction of shared OTUs. However, when assessing the data quantitatively by focusing on dominant lineages, the sequencing approaches deliver an accurate representation of the community. In conclusion, this study revealed that the human fecal microbiota is dominated by around 40 species that maintain persistent populations over the duration of one year. The findings allow conclusions about the ecological factors that shape the community and support the concept of a homeostatic ecosystem controlled largely by deterministic processes. Our analysis of a three-member community revealed that methodological artifacts of OTU-based approaches complicate core calculations, and these limitations have to be considered in the interpretation of microbiome studies.

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          Most cited references 25

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          Towards the human intestinal microbiota phylogenetic core.

          The paradox of a host specificity of the human faecal microbiota otherwise acknowledged as characterized by global functionalities conserved between humans led us to explore the existence of a phylogenetic core. We investigated the presence of a set of bacterial molecular species that would be altogether dominant and prevalent within the faecal microbiota of healthy humans. A total of 10 456 non-chimeric bacterial 16S rRNA sequences were obtained after cloning of PCR-amplified rDNA from 17 human faecal DNA samples. Using alignment or tetranucleotide frequency-based methods, 3180 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were detected. The 16S rRNA sequences mainly belonged to the phyla Firmicutes (79.4%), Bacteroidetes (16.9%), Actinobacteria (2.5%), Proteobacteria (1%) and Verrumicrobia (0.1%). Interestingly, while most of OTUs appeared individual-specific, 2.1% were present in more than 50% of the samples and accounted for 35.8% of the total sequences. These 66 dominant and prevalent OTUs included members of the genera Faecalibacterium, Ruminococcus, Eubacterium, Dorea, Bacteroides, Alistipes and Bifidobacterium. Furthermore, 24 OTUs had cultured type strains representatives which should be subjected to genome sequence with a high degree of priority. Strikingly, 52 of these 66 OTUs were detected in at least three out of four recently published human faecal microbiota data sets, obtained with very different experimental procedures. A statistical model confirmed these OTUs prevalence. Despite the species richness and a high individual specificity, a limited number of OTUs is shared among individuals and might represent the phylogenetic core of the human intestinal microbiota. Its role in human health deserves further study.
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            Phylogenetic analysis of community assembly and structure over space and time.

            Evolutionary ecologists are increasingly combining phylogenetic data with distributional and ecological data to assess how and why communities of species differ from random expectations for evolutionary and ecological relatedness. Of particular interest have been the roles of environmental filtering and competitive interactions, or alternatively neutral effects, in dictating community composition. Our goal is to place current research within a dynamic framework, specifically using recent phylogenetic studies from insular environments to provide an explicit spatial and temporal context. We compare communities over a range of evolutionary, ecological and geographic scales that differ in the extent to which speciation and adaptation contribute to community assembly and structure. This perspective allows insights into the processes that can generate community structure, as well as the evolutionary dynamics of community assembly.
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              The human gut microbiome: ecology and recent evolutionary changes.

              The human gastrointestinal tract is divided into sections, allowing digestion and nutrient absorption in the proximal region to be separate from the vast microbial populations in the large intestine, thereby reducing conflict between host and microbes. In the distinct habitats of the gut, environmental filtering and competitive exclusion between microbes are the driving factors shaping microbial diversity, and stochastic factors during colonization history and in situ evolution are likely to introduce intersubject variability. Adaptive strategies of microbes with different niches are genomically encoded: Specialists have smaller genomes than generalists, and microbes with environmental reservoirs have large accessory genomes. A shift toward a Neolithic diet increased loads of simple carbohydrates and selected for their increased breakdown and absorption in the small intestine. Humans who outcompeted microbes for the new substrates obtained more energy from their diets and prospered, an evolutionary process reflected in modern population genetics. The three-way interactions between human genetics, diet, and the microbiota fundamentally shaped modern populations and continue to affect health globally.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                16 July 2013
                : 8
                : 7
                Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, United States of America
                Argonne National Laboratory, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: IM CEM JW. Performed the experiments: IM CEM. Analyzed the data: IM CEM JW. Wrote the paper: IM CEM JW.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 12
                The authors have no support or funding to report.
                Research Article
                Computational Biology
                Genome Sequencing
                Community Ecology
                Microbial Ecology
                Genome Sequencing
                Microbial Ecology
                Gastroenterology and Hepatology
                Gastrointestinal Infections
                Infectious Diseases
                Gastrointestinal Infections



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