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The roles of host genetics and microbial community dynamics in determining human gut microbiome composition

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Speaker
Emily Davenport Postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University
When
20 March 2019 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Where
501 Wartik
Host
Dept of Biology
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Abstract:  Billions of single-celled organisms colonize the human body. These microbes play important roles in human health and evolution, but we are only just starting to discover the factors that determine their composition. While environmental factors such as diet, antibiotic usage, and method of birth clearly play a role, the influences of host genetics and microbial community dynamics remain unclear. To address these gaps, I’ll discuss several studies I’ve led in these areas. First, examining both the microbiome and host genetics in the Hutterites and in twins living in the UK reveals that there is a heritable component to the microbiome. Follow up with genome-wide association studies (GWAS) implicate host genetic variants in immune- and diet-related genes, including the variant responsible for lactose tolerance in European populations. Second, examining the co-occurrences of bacteria living in the guts of UK twins reveals disease-specific configurations of gut bacterial communities in humans. It’s not always the case that the microbiomes of healthy individuals are more connected or modular. These studies demonstrate that in addition to environmental factors, genetics and microbial community interactions are also important factors that determine human gut microbiome composition.