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An integrated catalog of reference genes in the human gut microbiome


Many analyses of the human gut microbiome depend on a catalog of reference genes. Existing catalogs for the human gut microbiome are based on samples from single cohorts or on reference genomes or protein sequences, which limits coverage of global microbiome diversity. Here we combined 249 newly sequenced samples of the Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHit) project with 1,018 previously sequenced samples to create a cohort from three continents that is at least threefold larger than cohorts used for previous gene catalogs. From this we established the integrated gene catalog (IGC) comprising 9,879,896 genes. The catalog includes close-to-complete sets of genes for most gut microbes, which are also of considerably higher quality than in previous catalogs. Analyses of a group of samples from Chinese and Danish individuals using the catalog revealed country-specific gut microbial signatures. This expanded catalog should facilitate quantitative characterization of metagenomic, metatranscriptomic and metaproteomic data from the gut microbiome to understand its variation across populations in human health and disease.

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Figure 1: Construction of the IGC.
Figure 2: Coverage of the IGC.
Figure 3: Improved genome coverage in 3CGC.
Figure 4: Differences between Chinese and Danish gut microbiota.
Figure 5: Abundance and function of low-occurrence genes.
Figure 6: Temporal stability of low-occurrence genes.

Accession codes


European Nucleotide Archive

Gene Expression Omnibus

Sequence Read Archive


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This research was supported by the European Commission FP7 grant HEALTH-F4-2007-201052 and HEALTH-F4-2010-261376, Natural Science Foundation of China (30890032, 30725008, 30811130531 and 31161130357), the Shenzhen Municipal Government of China (ZYC200903240080A, BGI20100001, CXB201108250096A and CXB201108250098A), European Research Council CancerBiome grant (project reference 268985), METACARDIS project (FP7-HEALTH-2012-INNOVATION-I-305312), the Danish Strategic Research Council grant (2106-07-0021), the Ole Rømer grant from Danish Natural Science Research Council and the Solexa project (272-07-0196). Additional funding came from the Lundbeck Foundation Centre for Applied Medical Genomics in Personalized Disease Prediction, Prevention and Care (, the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (an independent research center at the University of Copenhagen partially funded by an unrestricted donation from the Novo Nordisk Foundation; and the Metagenopolis grant ANR-11-DPBS-0001. We are indebted to many additional faculty and staff of BGI-Shenzhen who contributed to this work.

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Authors and Affiliations




J.L., Q.F., S.D.E., P.B. and Jun W. managed the project. T.N., T.H., F.G. and O.P. performed clinical sampling. C.M., W.Z., F.L. and Jua.W. performed DNA extraction. J.L., M.A., K.K., P.B. and Jun W. designed the analyses. J.L., H.J., X.C., H. Zhong, Q.F., E.P., A.S.J., B.C., L.X., S.L., D.Z., Z.Z., W.C., H. Zhao, S.E. and H.B.N. performed the data analyses. J.L., X.C., S.S., J.R.K., Z.Z. and W.C. constructed the integrated gene catalog and performed the functional and taxonomic annotation analyses. J.L., X.C., H. Zhong, B.C. and S.L. performed the country-specific signature analyses. J.L., H.J. and H. Zhong wrote the paper. S.S., M.A., X.X., J.Y.A.-A., H.Y., Ji.W., S.B., K.K., O.P., J.D., S.D.E., P.B. and Jun W. revised the paper. The MetaHIT Consortium members contributed to design and execution of the study.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Peer Bork or Jun Wang.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Additional information

A full list of additional members and affiliations appears at the end of the paper.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Text and Figures

Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Figures 1–9 and Supplementary Tables 9,10,14,16–20,22,24,26 (PDF 47260 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

Statistics for sequencing data of the 1,267 samples. (XLSX 211 kb)

Supplementary Table 2

Selection for 511 human gut-related sequenced prokaryotic genomes. (XLSX 197 kb)

Supplementary Table 3

Detailed statistics for the 3,449 sequenced genomes used for taxonomic classification. (XLSX 687 kb)

Supplementary Table 4

Improved genome coverage by IGC genes. (XLSX 183 kb)

Supplementary Table 5

Breakdown of IGC genes by occurrence frequency and phylogenetic classification. (XLSX 221 kb)

Supplementary Table 6

List of gut-related prokaryotic genera. (XLSX 38 kb)

Supplementary Table 7

List of specific KOs in MetaHIT 2010 and IGC. (XLSX 61 kb)

Supplementary Table 8

Final pool of healthy Chinese and Danish adults used for analysis. (XLSX 19 kb)

Supplementary Table 11

Detailed information of population-associated genus markers. (XLSX 46 kb)

Supplementary Table 12

Detailed information of population-associated KO markers. (XLSX 1006 kb)

Supplementary Table 13

Differential enrichment of enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism. (XLSX 17 kb)

Supplementary Table 15

Sporulation- and germination-related KOs in the Danish gut microbiome. (XLSX 46 kb)

Supplementary Table 21

Overrepresentation of multidrug- or penicillin-resistant proteins in Chinese and Danes. (XLSX 15 kb)

Supplementary Table 23

Elevated metabolic potential for carcinogenic xenobiotics in Chinese adults. (XLSX 91 kb)

Supplementary Table 25

Enrichment of nitrogen metabolism in the Chinese gut microbiota. (XLSX 14 kb)

Supplementary Table 27

Distribution of functional categories for genes of different occurrence frequencies. (XLSX 2487 kb)

Supplementary Table 28

Functions overrepresented in individual-specific genes. (XLSX 86 kb)

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Li, J., Jia, H., Cai, X. et al. An integrated catalog of reference genes in the human gut microbiome. Nat Biotechnol 32, 834–841 (2014).

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