Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood, COPSAC has participated in a large international consortium named MiBioGen which aimed at identifying genetic factors involved in shaping the composition of the human gut microbiome by analyzing the common genetic factors that influence the composition of the human gut microbiome in more than 18,000 people. The study is published today January 18, 2021 in the leading scientific magazine Nature Genetics.
The largest and richest human microbiome inhabits the gut and contributes substantially to our health. Yet the factors that shape its composition, although widely studied, remain unclear, and the more than 80% difference in gut microbiome between individuals remains unexplained. In general, environmental factors such as diet and medication play a major role, however a role for human genetic variants has also been suggested by the identification of heritable bacteria, i.e. those that are more common in twins and family members.
The current study based on >18,000 people highlights the common host genetic factors that influence the composition of the human gut microbiome. The researchers report at least two human genes have a major impact in shaping our gut ecosystem: the lactase gene (LCT), which influences the abundance of lactose-digesting Bifidobacteria, and the fucosyl transferase (FUT2) gene, which determines the abundance of Ruminococcus torques. They also show that other human genes affecting microbiome composition are involved in important aspects of host metabolism, nutrition and immunity. Their analyses stretch as far as establishing relationships between several bacterial species and human diseases. For example, a higher abundance of Bifidobacterium decreased the risk of the inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis, an observation also reported in previous clinical trials.
“It has been a great endeavor to collect and compare the diverse datasets from all across the world in this large study”, says co-author Jakob Stokholm. COPSAC2010-children were included as one of the two childhood cohorts, and interesting differences did exist between adult and childhood populations. “In children, we know that early life environmental exposures are especially important for shaping of the microbiome. It will be an important step to find out how the genes and microbiome interact in the development of childhood diseases.”
All results available to other scientists and the scientific community for additional and future analyses. All results are uploaded to http://mibiogen.org, supported by the Genomics Coordination Center in the Department of Genetics, UMCG.
The publication in Nature Genetics is available at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41588-020-00763-1
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