Our knowledge of species and functional composition of the human gut microbiome is rapidly increasing, but it is still based on very few cohorts and little is known about variation across the world. By combining 22 newly sequenced faecal metagenomes of individuals from four countries with previously published data sets, here we identify three robust clusters (referred to as enterotypes hereafter) that are not nation or continent specific. We also confirmed the enterotypes in two published, larger cohorts, indicating that intestinal microbiota variation is generally stratified, not continuous. This indicates further the existence of a limited number of well-balanced host–microbial symbiotic states that might respond differently to diet and drug intake. The enterotypes are mostly driven by species composition, but abundant molecular functions are not necessarily provided by abundant species, highlighting the importance of a functional analysis to understand microbial communities. Although individual host properties such as body mass index, age, or gender cannot explain the observed enterotypes, data-driven marker genes or functional modules can be identified for each of these host properties. For example, twelve genes significantly correlate with age and three functional modules with the body mass index, hinting at a diagnostic potential of microbial markers.
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The authors are grateful to C. Creevey, G. Falony and members of the Bork group at EMBL for discussions and assistance. We thank the EMBL IT core facility and Y. Yuan for managing the high-performance computing resources. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013): MetaHIT, grant agreement HEALTH-F4-2007-201052, EMBL, the Lundbeck Foundation Centre for Applied Medical Genomics in Personalized Disease Prediction, Prevention and Care (LuCAMP), Novo Nordisk Foundation and the International Science and Technology Cooperation Project in China (0806). Obese/non-obese volunteers for the MicroObes study were recruited from the SU.VI.MAX cohort study coordinated by P. Galan and S. Hercberg, and metagenome sequencing was funded by Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR); volunteers for MicroAge study were recruited from the CROWNALIFE cohort study coordinated by S. Silvi and A. Cresci, and metagenome sequencing was funded by GenoScope. Ciberehd is funded by the Instituto de Salud Carlos III (Spain). J.R. is supported by the Institute for the encouragement of Scientific Research and Innovation of Brussels (ISRIB) and the Odysseus programme of the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (FWO). We are thankful to the Human Microbiome Project for generating the reference genomes from human gut microbes and the International Human Microbiome Consortium for discussions and exchange of data.
The file contains Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Notes and Supplementary References. A minor error in Supplementary Information section 2.2 was corrected on 02 June 2011.
This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-27 with legends.
The file contains Supplementary Tables 1 - 2 and 4 - 24 (see separate file for Supplementary Table 3).
The file contains Supplementary Table 3.