Shotgun Metagenomics of 250 Adult Twins Reveals Genetic and Environmental Impacts on the Gut Microbiome.
Xie H., Guo R., Zhong H., Feng Q., Lan Z., Qin B., Ward KJ., Jackson MA., Xia Y., Chen X., Chen B., Xia H., Xu C., Li F., Xu X., Al-Aama JY., Yang H., Wang J., Kristiansen K., Wang J., Steves CJ., Bell JT., Li J., Spector TD., Jia H.
The gut microbiota has been typically viewed as an environmental factor for human health. Twins are well suited for investigating the concordance of their gut microbiomes and decomposing genetic and environmental influences. However, existing twin studies utilizing metagenomic shotgun sequencing have included only a few samples. Here, we sequenced fecal samples from 250 adult twins in the TwinsUK registry and constructed a comprehensive gut microbial reference gene catalog. We demonstrate heritability of many microbial taxa and functional modules in the gut microbiome, including those associated with diseases. Moreover, we identified 8 million SNPs in the gut microbiome and observe a high similarity in microbiome SNPs between twins that slowly decreases after decades of living apart. The results shed new light on the genetic and environmental influences on the composition and function of the gut microbiome that could relate to risk of complex diseases.