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Environmental factors dominate over host genetics in shaping human gut microbiota composition

By Daphna Rothschild, Omer Weissbrod, Elad Barkan, Tal Korem, David Zeevi, Paul I Costea, Anastasia Godneva, Iris Kalka, Noam Bar, Niv Zmora, Meirav Pevsner-Fischer, David Israeli, Noa Kosower, Gal Malka, Bat Chen Wolf, Tali Avnit-Sagi, Maya Lotan-Pompan, Adina Weinberger, Zamir Halpern, Shai Carmi, Eran Elinav, Eran Segal

Posted 16 Jun 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/150540 (published DOI: 10.1038/nature25973)

Human gut microbiome composition is shaped by multiple host intrinsic and extrinsic factors, but the relative contribution of host genetic compared to environmental factors remains elusive. Here, we genotyped a cohort of 696 healthy individuals from several distinct ancestral origins and a relatively common environment, and demonstrate that there is no statistically significant association between microbiome composition and ethnicity, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), or overall genetic similarity, and that only 5 of 211 (2.4%) previously reported microbiome-SNP associations replicate in our cohort. In contrast, we find similarities in the microbiome composition of genetically unrelated individuals who share a household. We define the term biome-explainability as the variance of a host phenotype explained by the microbiome after accounting for the contribution of human genetics. Consistent with our finding that microbiome and host genetics are largely independent, we find significant biome-explainability levels of 16-33% for body mass index (BMI), fasting glucose, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, waist circumference, waist-hip ratio (WHR), and lactose consumption. We further show that several human phenotypes can be predicted substantially more accurately when adding microbiome data to host genetics data, and that the contribution of both data sources to prediction accuracy is largely additive. Overall, our results suggest that human microbiome composition is dominated by environmental factors rather than by host genetics.

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