Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You are the Chosen One, at least by your bacteria

Host genomics is not the main decision-making factor for bacteria immigrating into human body, but  it is an important factor. Two papers recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences help to understand why you are chosen and how the choosers make their decisions.

Benson et al studied microbes of mice C57BL/6J, HR and their offspring. BL6 is a common inbred line prone to diet-induced obesity, type 2 diabetes, and atherosclerosis. They also develop age-related hearing loss, if are not following recommended dietary allowance. High runner (HR) mice is lean and fit and loves to exercise - it's in the genes.

Noninvasive 16S RNA sequencing (Roche 454) showed that the abundance of microbes in "core measurable microbiota" depended on 530 host SNPs, mostly those located in 13 quantitative trait loci and was influenced by 5 more QTLs.

Some of the genetic regions appear to determine what kind of bacteria immigrate and strive in the host, other regions influence the immigration rate, attracting a wide variety pf or specific nationalities. Supplementary material elaborates on  sources of variation and genotype frequencies at given SNP locations. 

How are bacteria making their decisions to colonize or not to colonize?

In another PNAS article, Ben-Jacob and Schultz explain why microbes could be smarter than humans. We may think that our decisions are well thought and sophisticated, but we are, indeed, influenced by other people and our over-interpretations of other people's reactions. Bacteria can assess the noisy and stressful environment around them more objectively and rationally. They anticipate possible drastic changes in the environment and find the best decisions by providing every bacterium with the freedom to choose its own fate. This may look like throwing dice, but the colony manages the odds and effectively programs the effect of the noise on the gene circuit performance.

Our genes may be shaping microbial communities that could, in their turn, control our physical and mental health. Yet our lifestyle choices could break the patterns and let us decide what types of bacteria we want to live with.

And for those whose fight against unwanted microbes is too hard, there may be light in the end of the tunnel: Personal Genomes project has just announced a new collaboration with Rob Knight and Noah Fierer that will enable to explore the microbial diversity of various habitats of the human body and correlate it to the genotype.

  • Andrew K. Benson,, Scott A. Kelly,, Ryan Legge,, Fangrui Ma,, Soo Jen Low,, Jaehyoung Kim,, Min Zhang,, Phaik Lyn Oh,, Derrick Nehrenberg,, Kunjie Hu,, Stephen D. Kachman,, Etsuko N. Moriyama,, Jens Walter,, Daniel A. Peterson,, & Daniel Pomp10.1073/pnas.1007028107 (2010). Individuality in gut microbiota composition is a complex polygenic trait shaped by multiple environmental and host genetic factors Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,
  • Ben-Jacob E, &; Schultz D (2010). Bacteria determine fate by playing dice with controlled odds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107 (30), 13197-8 PMID: 20660309
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