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Bacterial SNPs in the human gut microbiome associate with host BMI

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have revolutionized the field of genetics, providing numerous associations between human SNPs and health traits. Likewise, metagenome-wide association studies (MWAS) between bacterial SNPs and human traits can suggest mechanistic links between the microbiota and its host. However, very few such studies have been done to date, in part due to the large number of samples required to address the variable coverage of bacteria across samples and the fact that most bacteria are present in only a subset of the population. Here, we devised an MWAS framework to detect SNPs and associate them with host phenotypes systematically. We recruited and obtained gut metagenomic samples from a cohort of 7,190 healthy individuals and discovered 1,358 statistically significant associations between a bacterial SNP and host body mass index (BMI). To address the possible effects of population structure and linkage disequilibrium, we applied a clumping procedure, and found 40 independent associations between SNPs and host BMI. We uncovered BMI-associated SNPs in the genomes of 27 bacterial species, even though the relative abundance of 12 of these species was not associated with the phenotype. We separated genome-wide sub-species variations from local associations in individual SNPs, and demonstrated how this framework can highlight specific bacterial functions of interest. Our results demonstrate the importance of considering nucleotide-level diversity in microbiome studies and pave the way toward a better understanding of interpersonal gut microbiome differences and their health implications.

Click on a Dataset ID in the table below to learn more, and to find out who to contact about access to these data

Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001010925 Illumina NovaSeq 6000 7190
Publications Citations
Bacterial SNPs in the human gut microbiome associate with host BMI.
Nat Med 29: 2023 2785-2792