Unravelling the effects of the environment and host genotype on the gut microbiome

Aymé Spor, Omry Koren, Ruth Ley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1105 Scopus citations


To what extent do host genetics control the composition of the gut microbiome? Studies comparing the gut microbiota in human twins and across inbred mouse lines have yielded inconsistent answers to this question. However, candidate gene approaches, in which one gene is deleted or added to a model host organism, show that a single host gene can have a tremendous effect on the diversity and population structure of the gut microbiota. Now, quantitative genetics is emerging as a highly promising approach that can be used to better understand the overall architecture of host genetic influence on the microbiota, and to discover additional host genes controlling microbial diversity in the gut. In this Review, we describe how host genetics and the environment shape the microbiota, and how these three factors may interact in the context of chronic disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-290
Number of pages12
JournalNature Reviews Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank A. Benson, D. Pomp, L. Angenent and the three reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript, and J. Koenig for early discussions. We are grateful for a Beckman Young Investigator Award, and to The Hartwell Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the US National Science Foundation (IOS-0958,184), and the US National Institutes of Health Human Microbiome Project Data Analysis and Coordination Center (U01 HG004866) for support.


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