Letter

Nature 457, 480-484 (22 January 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature07540; Received 29 June 2008; Accepted 14 October 2008; Published online 30 November 2008

A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins

Peter J. Turnbaugh1, Micah Hamady3, Tanya Yatsunenko1, Brandi L. Cantarel5, Alexis Duncan2, Ruth E. Ley1, Mitchell L. Sogin6, William J. Jones7, Bruce A. Roe8, Jason P. Affourtit9, Michael Egholm9, Bernard Henrissat5, Andrew C. Heath2, Rob Knight4 & Jeffrey I. Gordon1

  1. Center for Genome Sciences
  2. Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri 63108, USA
  3. Department of Computer Science
  4. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA
  5. CNRS, UMR6098, Marseille, France
  6. Josephine Bay Paul Center, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
  7. Environmental Genomics Core Facility, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina 29208, USA
  8. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Advanced Center for Genome Technology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma 73019, USA
  9. 454 Life Sciences, Branford, Connecticut 06405, USA

Correspondence to: Jeffrey I. Gordon1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.I.G. (Email: jgordon@wustl.edu).

The human distal gut harbours a vast ensemble of microbes (the microbiota) that provide important metabolic capabilities, including the ability to extract energy from otherwise indigestible dietary polysaccharides1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Studies of a few unrelated, healthy adults have revealed substantial diversity in their gut communities, as measured by sequencing 16S rRNA genes6, 7, 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 used and stored3, 4, 5. Here we characterize the faecal microbial communities of adult female monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs concordant for leanness or obesity, and their mothers, to address how host genotype, environmental exposure and host adiposity influence the gut microbiome. 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 physiological states (obese compared with lean).

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