On the Origins and Control of Community Types in the Human Microbiome

Travis E. Gibson, Amir Bashan, Hong Tai Cao, Scott T. Weiss, Yang Yu Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Microbiome-based stratification of healthy individuals into compositional categories, referred to as “enterotypes” or “community types”, holds promise for drastically improving personalized medicine. Despite this potential, the existence of community types and the degree of their distinctness have been highly debated. Here we adopted a dynamic systems approach and found that heterogeneity in the interspecific interactions or the presence of strongly interacting species is sufficient to explain community types, independent of the topology of the underlying ecological network. By controlling the presence or absence of these strongly interacting species we can steer the microbial ecosystem to any desired community type. This open-loop control strategy still holds even when the community types are not distinct but appear as dense regions within a continuous gradient. This finding can be used to develop viable therapeutic strategies for shifting the microbial composition to a healthy configuration.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1004688
Pages (from-to)e1004688
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Gibson et al.


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