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1.  In Vitro Communities Derived from Oral and Gut Microbial Floras Inhibit the Growth of Bacteria of Foreign Origins 
Microbial Ecology  2010;60(3):665-676.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to trillions of microbes. Within the same GI tract, substantial differences in the bacterial species that inhabit the oral cavity and intestinal tract have been noted. While the influence of host environments and nutritional availability in shaping different microbial communities is widely accepted, we hypothesize that the existing microbial flora also plays a role in selecting the bacterial species that are being integrated into the community. In this study, we used cultivable microbial communities isolated from different parts of the GI tract of mice (oral cavity and intestines) as a model system to examine this hypothesis. Microbes from these two areas were harvested and cultured using the same nutritional conditions, which led to two distinct microbial communities, each with about 20 different species as revealed by PCR-based denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis. In vitro community competition assays showed that the two microbial floras exhibited antagonistic interactions toward each other. More interestingly, all the original isolates tested and their closely related species displayed striking community preferences: They persisted when introduced into the bacterial community of the same origin, while their viable count declined more than three orders of magnitude after 4 days of coincubation with the microbial flora of foreign origin. These results suggest that an existing microbial community might impose a selective pressure on incoming foreign bacterial species independent of host selection. The observed inter-flora interactions could contribute to the protective effect of established microbial communities against the integration of foreign bacteria to maintain the stability of the existing communities.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-010-9711-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2954289  PMID: 20625712
2.  Oral-derived bacterial flora defends its domain by recognizing and killing intruders---- a molecular analysis using Escherichia coli as a model intestinal bacterium 
Microbial ecology  2010;60(3):655-664.
Within the same human gastrointestinal (GI) tract, substantial differences in the bacterial species that inhabit oral cavity and intestinal tract have been noted. Previous research primarily attributed the differences to the influences of host environments and nutritional availabilities (“host habitat” effect). Our recent study indicated that, other than the host habitat effect, an existing microbial community could impose a selective pressure on incoming foreign bacterial species independent of host-mediated selection (“community selection” effect). In this study, we employed in vitro microbial floras representing microorganisms that inhabit the oral cavities and intestinal tract of mice in combination with Escherichia coli as a model intestinal bacterium and demonstrated that E. coli displays a striking community preference. It thrived when introduced into the intestinal microbial community, and survived poorly in the microbial flora of foreign origin (oral community). A more detailed examination of this phenomenon showed that the oral community produced oxygen free radicals in the presence of wild type E. coli while mutants deficient in lipopolysaccharides (LPS) did not trigger significant production of these cell damaging agents. Furthermore, mutants of E. coli defective in the oxidative stress response experienced a more drastic reduction in viability when co-cultivated with the oral flora, while the exogenous addition of the anti-oxidant vitamin C was able to rescue it. We concluded that the oral-derived microbial community senses the E. coli LPS and kills the bacterium with oxygen free radicals. This study reveals a new mechanism of community invasion resistance employed by established microflora to defend their domains.
PMCID: PMC2954290  PMID: 20625713
3.  Oral-Derived Bacterial Flora Defends Its Domain by Recognizing and Killing Intruders—A Molecular Analysis Using Escherichia coli as a Model Intestinal Bacterium 
Microbial Ecology  2010;60(3):655-664.
Within the same human gastrointestinal tract, substantial differences in the bacterial species that inhabit oral cavity and intestinal tract have been noted. Previous research primarily attributed the differences to the influences of host environments and nutritional availabilities (“host habitat” effect). Our recent study indicated that, other than the host habitat effect, an existing microbial community could impose a selective pressure on incoming foreign bacterial species independent of host-mediated selection (“community selection” effect). In this study, we employed in vitro microbial floras representing microorganisms that inhabit the oral cavities and intestinal tract of mice in combination with Escherichia coli as a model intestinal bacterium and demonstrated that E. coli displays a striking community preference. It thrived when introduced into the intestinal microbial community and survived poorly in the microbial flora of foreign origin (oral community). A more detailed examination of this phenomenon showed that the oral community produced oxygen-free radicals in the presence of wild-type E. coli while mutants deficient in lipopolysaccharides (LPS) did not trigger significant production of these cell-damaging agents. Furthermore, mutants of E. coli defective in the oxidative stress response experienced a more drastic reduction in viability when cocultivated with the oral flora, while the exogenous addition of the antioxidant vitamin C was able to rescue it. We concluded that the oral-derived microbial community senses the E. coli LPS and kills the bacterium with oxygen-free radicals. This study reveals a new mechanism of community invasion resistance employed by established microflora to defend their domains.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00248-010-9708-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2954290  PMID: 20625713
4.  Community-based interference against integration of Pseudomonas aeruginosa into human salivary microbial biofilm 
Molecular Oral Microbiology  2011;26(6):337-352.
As part of the human gastrointestinal tract, the oral cavity represents a complex biological system and harbors diverse bacterial species. Unlike the gut microbiota which is often considered a health asset, studies of the oral commensal microbial flora have been largely limited to their implication in oral diseases such as dental caries and periodontal diseases; Little emphasis has been given to their potential beneficial roles, especially the protective effects against oral colonization by foreign/pathogenic bacteria. In this study, we used the salivary microbiota derived from healthy human subjects to investigate protective effects against the colonization and integration of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic bacterial pathogen, into developing and pre-formed salivary biofilms. When co-cultivated in saliva medium, P. aeruginosa persisted in the planktonic phase, but failed to integrate into salivary microbial community during biofilm formation. Furthermore, in the saliva medium supplemented with 0.05% (w/v) sucrose, the oral flora inhibited the growth of P. aeruginosa by producing lactic acid. More interestingly, while pre-formed salivary biofilms were able to prevent P. aeruginosa colonization, the same biofilms recovered from mild chlorhexidine gluconate treatment displayed a shift in microbial composition and showed a drastic reduction in protection. Our study indicates that normal oral communities with balanced microbial compositions could be important in effectively preventing the integration of foreign/pathogenic bacterial species, such as P. aeruginosa.
PMCID: PMC3327514  PMID: 22053962
bacterial interference; microbial flora; oral cavity; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; salivary biofilm
5.  Development of the Human Infant Intestinal Microbiota 
PLoS Biology  2007;5(7):e177.
Almost immediately after a human being is born, so too is a new microbial ecosystem, one that resides in that person's gastrointestinal tract. Although it is a universal and integral part of human biology, the temporal progression of this process, the sources of the microbes that make up the ecosystem, how and why it varies from one infant to another, and how the composition of this ecosystem influences human physiology, development, and disease are still poorly understood. As a step toward systematically investigating these questions, we designed a microarray to detect and quantitate the small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA) gene sequences of most currently recognized species and taxonomic groups of bacteria. We used this microarray, along with sequencing of cloned libraries of PCR-amplified SSU rDNA, to profile the microbial communities in an average of 26 stool samples each from 14 healthy, full-term human infants, including a pair of dizygotic twins, beginning with the first stool after birth and continuing at defined intervals throughout the first year of life. To investigate possible origins of the infant microbiota, we also profiled vaginal and milk samples from most of the mothers, and stool samples from all of the mothers, most of the fathers, and two siblings. The composition and temporal patterns of the microbial communities varied widely from baby to baby. Despite considerable temporal variation, the distinct features of each baby's microbial community were recognizable for intervals of weeks to months. The strikingly parallel temporal patterns of the twins suggested that incidental environmental exposures play a major role in determining the distinctive characteristics of the microbial community in each baby. By the end of the first year of life, the idiosyncratic microbial ecosystems in each baby, although still distinct, had converged toward a profile characteristic of the adult gastrointestinal tract.
Author Summary
It has been recognized for nearly a century that human beings are inhabited by a remarkably dense and diverse microbial ecosystem, yet we are only just beginning to understand and appreciate the many roles that these microbes play in human health and development. Knowing the composition of this ecosystem is a crucial step toward understanding its roles. In this study, we designed and applied a ribosomal DNA microarray-based approach to trace the development of the intestinal flora in 14 healthy, full-term infants over the first year of life. We found that the composition and temporal patterns of the microbial communities varied widely from baby to baby, supporting a broader definition of healthy colonization than previously recognized. By one year of age, the babies retained their uniqueness but had converged toward a profile characteristic of the adult gastrointestinal tract. The composition and temporal patterns of development of the intestinal microbiota in a pair of fraternal twins were strikingly similar, suggesting that genetic and environmental factors shape our gut microbiota in a reproducible way.
Microarray profiling of the microbial communities of infant guts throughout the first year shows initial variation then convergence on the adult flora, providing new insight into this human ecosystem.
PMCID: PMC1896187  PMID: 17594176
6.  Adherence to Streptococci facilitates Fusobacterium nucleatum integration into an oral microbial community 
Microbial Ecology  2011;63(3):532-542.
The development of multispecies oral microbial communities involves complex intra- and interspecies interactions at various levels. The ability to adhere to the resident bacteria or the biofilm matrix and overcome community resistance are among the key factors that determine whether a bacterium can integrate into a community. In this study, we focus on community integration of Fusobacterium nucleatum, a prevalent Gram-negative oral bacterial species that is considered an important member of the oral community due to its ability to adhere to Gram-positive as well as Gram-negative species. This interaction with a variety of different species is thought to facilitate the establishment of multispecies oral microbial community. However, the majority of experiments thus far has focused on the physical adherence between two species as measured by in vitro co-aggregation assays, while the community-based effects on the integration of F. nucleatum into multispecies microbial community remains to be investigated. In this study, we demonstrated using an established in vitro mice oral microbiota (O-mix) that the viability of F. nucleatum was significantly reduced upon addition to the O-mix due to cell contact-dependent induction of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) production by oral community. Interestingly, this inhibitory effect was significantly alleviated when F. nucleatum was allowed to adhere to its known interacting partner species (such as Streptococcus sanguinis) prior to addition. Furthermore, this aggregate formation-dependent protection was absent in the F. nucleatum mutant strain ΔFn1526 that is unable to bind to a number of Gram-positive species. More importantly, this protective effect was also observed during integration of F. nucleatum into a human salivary microbial community (S-mix). These results support the idea that by adhering to other oral microbes, such as streptococci, F. nucleatum is able to mask the surface components that are recognized by H2O2 producing oral community members. This evasion strategy prevents detection by antagonistic oral bacteria and allows integration into the developing oral microbial community.
PMCID: PMC3313671  PMID: 22202886
coaggregation; Fusobacterium nucleatum; microbial flora; oral cavity; community resistance
7.  Diverse CRISPRs Evolving in Human Microbiomes 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(6):e1002441.
CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) loci, together with cas (CRISPR–associated) genes, form the CRISPR/Cas adaptive immune system, a primary defense strategy that eubacteria and archaea mobilize against foreign nucleic acids, including phages and conjugative plasmids. Short spacer sequences separated by the repeats are derived from foreign DNA and direct interference to future infections. The availability of hundreds of shotgun metagenomic datasets from the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) enables us to explore the distribution and diversity of known CRISPRs in human-associated microbial communities and to discover new CRISPRs. We propose a targeted assembly strategy to reconstruct CRISPR arrays, which whole-metagenome assemblies fail to identify. For each known CRISPR type (identified from reference genomes), we use its direct repeat consensus sequence to recruit reads from each HMP dataset and then assemble the recruited reads into CRISPR loci; the unique spacer sequences can then be extracted for analysis. We also identified novel CRISPRs or new CRISPR variants in contigs from whole-metagenome assemblies and used targeted assembly to more comprehensively identify these CRISPRs across samples. We observed that the distributions of CRISPRs (including 64 known and 86 novel ones) are largely body-site specific. We provide detailed analysis of several CRISPR loci, including novel CRISPRs. For example, known streptococcal CRISPRs were identified in most oral microbiomes, totaling ∼8,000 unique spacers: samples resampled from the same individual and oral site shared the most spacers; different oral sites from the same individual shared significantly fewer, while different individuals had almost no common spacers, indicating the impact of subtle niche differences on the evolution of CRISPR defenses. We further demonstrate potential applications of CRISPRs to the tracing of rare species and the virus exposure of individuals. This work indicates the importance of effective identification and characterization of CRISPR loci to the study of the dynamic ecology of microbiomes.
Author Summary
Human bodies are complex ecological systems in which various microbial organisms and viruses interact with each other and with the human host. The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) has resulted in >700 datasets of shotgun metagenomic sequences, from which we can learn about the compositions and functions of human-associated microbial communities. CRISPR/Cas systems are a widespread class of adaptive immune systems in bacteria and archaea, providing acquired immunity against foreign nucleic acids: CRISPR/Cas defense pathways involve integration of viral- or plasmid-derived DNA segments into CRISPR arrays (forming spacers between repeated structural sequences), and expression of short crRNAs from these single repeat-spacer units, to generate interference to future invading foreign genomes. Powered by an effective computational approach (the targeted assembly approach for CRISPR), our analysis of CRISPR arrays in the HMP datasets provides the very first global view of bacterial immunity systems in human-associated microbial communities. The great diversity of CRISPR spacers we observed among different body sites, in different individuals, and in single individuals over time, indicates the impact of subtle niche differences on the evolution of CRISPR defenses and indicates the key role of bacteriophage (and plasmids) in shaping human microbial communities.
PMCID: PMC3374615  PMID: 22719260
8.  Using DGGE profiling to develop a novel culture medium suitable for oral microbial communities 
Molecular oral microbiology  2010;25(5):357-367.
More than 700 bacterial species have been detected in human oral cavity. They form highly organized microbial communities and are responsible for many oral infectious diseases, such as dental caries and periodontal disease. The prevention and treatment of these diseases require a comprehensive knowledge of oral microbial communities, which largely relies on culture-dependent methods to have detailed phenotypic and physiological analysis of these communities. However, most of the currently available lab media can only selectively support the growth of a limited number of bacterial species within these communities, and fail to sustain the original oral microbial diversity. In this study, using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) as an index to systematically survey and analyze the selectivity of commonly used lab media, we developed a new medium (SHI medium) by combining the ingredients of several selected media which can support different sub-populations within the original oral microbial community derived from pooled saliva. DGGE and 454 pyrosequencing analysis showed that SHI medium was capable of supporting a more diversified community with a microbial profile closest to that of the original oral microbiota. Furthermore, 454 pyrosequencing revealed that SHI medium supported the growth of many oral species that have not been cultured so far. Crystal violet assay and the CLSM (confocal laser scanning microscope) analysis indicated that, compared with other media, SHI medium is able to support more complex saliva-derived biofilm with higher biomass yield and more diversified species. This DGGE-guided method could also be used to develop novel media for other complex microbial communities.
PMCID: PMC2951289  PMID: 20883224
oral microbial community; growth medium; 454 pyrosequencing
9.  Bacterial Communities of Diverse Drosophila Species: Ecological Context of a Host–Microbe Model System 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(9):e1002272.
Drosophila melanogaster is emerging as an important model of non-pathogenic host–microbe interactions. The genetic and experimental tractability of Drosophila has led to significant gains in our understanding of animal–microbial symbiosis. However, the full implications of these results cannot be appreciated without the knowledge of the microbial communities associated with natural Drosophila populations. In particular, it is not clear whether laboratory cultures can serve as an accurate model of host–microbe interactions that occur in the wild, or those that have occurred over evolutionary time. To fill this gap, we characterized natural bacterial communities associated with 14 species of Drosophila and related genera collected from distant geographic locations. To represent the ecological diversity of Drosophilids, examined species included fruit-, flower-, mushroom-, and cactus-feeders. In parallel, wild host populations were compared to laboratory strains, and controlled experiments were performed to assess the importance of host species and diet in shaping bacterial microbiome composition. We find that Drosophilid flies have taxonomically restricted bacterial communities, with 85% of the natural bacterial microbiome composed of only four bacterial families. The dominant bacterial taxa are widespread and found in many different host species despite the taxonomic, ecological, and geographic diversity of their hosts. Both natural surveys and laboratory experiments indicate that host diet plays a major role in shaping the Drosophila bacterial microbiome. Despite this, the internal bacterial microbiome represents only a highly reduced subset of the external bacterial communities, suggesting that the host exercises some level of control over the bacteria that inhabit its digestive tract. Finally, we show that laboratory strains provide only a limited model of natural host–microbe interactions. Bacterial taxa used in experimental studies are rare or absent in wild Drosophila populations, while the most abundant associates of natural Drosophila populations are rare in the lab.
Author Summary
All animals are associated with large consortia of non-pathogenic microbes. Most of these “microbiomes” are not well characterized despite their importance for many aspects of host biology including human and animal health and the agricultural impact of pest species. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster provides a powerful experimental model for investigating the dynamics and consequences of animal–microbial interactions. However, it is not clear whether the model bacteria studied in the lab are representative of natural microbial consortia. To establish an ecological and comparative background for experimental studies, we have conducted a global survey of bacterial communities associated with natural populations of 14 species of Drosophila and related genera. Despite the taxonomic and ecological diversity of these species, we find that they are associated with the same dominant bacterial groups. Based on our results, we propose a model of microbiome assembly where its composition is circumscribed by host diet and physiology but, within those limits, is highly dependent on chance environmental encounters. Consistent with this model, the microbiomes of wild flies differ significantly from those of laboratory strains, suggesting that experimental studies should be extended to include the bacteria that are most prevalent in natural communities.
PMCID: PMC3178584  PMID: 21966276
10.  Microbial Community Dynamics during Production of the Mexican Fermented Maize Dough Pozol 
The dynamics of the microbial community responsible for the traditional fermentation of maize in the production of Mexican pozol was investigated by using a polyphasic approach combining (i) microbial enumerations with culture media, (ii) denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) fingerprinting of total community DNA with bacterial and eukaryotic primers and sequencing of partial 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) genes, (iii) quantification of rRNAs from dominant microbial taxa by using phylogenetic oligonucleotide probes, and (iv) analysis of sugars and fermentation products. A Streptococcus species dominated the fermentation and accounted for between 25 and 75% of the total flora throughout the process. Results also showed that the initial epiphytic aerobic microflora was replaced in the first 2 days by heterofermentative lactic acid bacteria (LAB), including a close relative of Lactobacillus fermentum, producing lactic acid and ethanol; this heterolactic flora was then progressively replaced by homofermentative LAB (mainly close relatives of L. plantarum, L. casei, and L. delbrueckii) which continued acidification of the maize dough. At the same time, a very diverse community of yeasts and fungi developed, mainly at the periphery of the dough. The analysis of the DGGE patterns obtained with bacterial and eukaryotic primers targeting the 16S and 18S rDNA genes clearly demonstrated that there was a major shift in the community structure after 24 h and that high biodiversity—according to the Shannon-Weaver index—was maintained throughout the process. These results proved that a relatively high number of species, at least six to eight, are needed to perform this traditional lactic acid fermentation. The presence of Bifidobacterium, Enterococcus, and enterobacteria suggests a fecal origin of some important pozol microorganisms. Overall, the results obtained with different culture-dependent or -independent techniques clearly confirmed the importance of developing a polyphasic approach to study the ecology of fermented foods.
PMCID: PMC92204  PMID: 10966374
11.  Application of a Neutral Community Model To Assess Structuring of the Human Lung Microbiome 
mBio  2015;6(1):e02284-14.
DNA from phylogenetically diverse microbes is routinely recovered from healthy human lungs and used to define the lung microbiome. The proportion of this DNA originating from microbes adapted to the lungs, as opposed to microbes dispersing to the lungs from other body sites and the atmosphere, is not known. We use a neutral model of community ecology to distinguish members of the lung microbiome whose presence is consistent with dispersal from other body sites and those that deviate from the model, suggesting a competitive advantage to these microbes in the lungs. We find that the composition of the healthy lung microbiome is consistent with predictions of the neutral model, reflecting the overriding role of dispersal of microbes from the oral cavity in shaping the microbial community in healthy lungs. In contrast, the microbiome of diseased lungs was readily distinguished as being under active selection. We also assessed the viability of microbes from lung samples by cultivation with a variety of media and incubation conditions. Bacteria recovered by cultivation from healthy lungs represented species that comprised 61% of the 16S rRNA-encoding gene sequences derived from bronchoalveolar lavage samples.
Importance  Neutral distribution of microbes is a distinguishing feature of the microbiome in healthy lungs, wherein constant dispersal of bacteria from the oral cavity overrides differential growth of bacteria. No bacterial species consistently deviated from the model predictions in healthy lungs, although representatives of many of the dispersed species were readily cultivated. In contrast, bacterial populations in diseased lungs were identified as being under active selection. Quantification of the relative importance of selection and neutral processes such as dispersal in shaping the healthy lung microbiome is a first step toward understanding its impacts on host health.
Neutral distribution of microbes is a distinguishing feature of the microbiome in healthy lungs, wherein constant dispersal of bacteria from the oral cavity overrides differential growth of bacteria. No bacterial species consistently deviated from the model predictions in healthy lungs, although representatives of many of the dispersed species were readily cultivated. In contrast, bacterial populations in diseased lungs were identified as being under active selection. Quantification of the relative importance of selection and neutral processes such as dispersal in shaping the healthy lung microbiome is a first step toward understanding its impacts on host health.
PMCID: PMC4324308  PMID: 25604788
12.  Noma Affected Children from Niger Have Distinct Oral Microbial Communities Based on High-Throughput Sequencing of 16S rRNA Gene Fragments 
We aim to understand the microbial ecology of noma (cancrum oris), a devastating ancient illness which causes severe facial disfigurement in>140,000 malnourished children every year. The cause of noma is still elusive. A chaotic mix of microbial infection, oral hygiene and weakened immune system likely contribute to the development of oral lesions. These lesions are a plausible entry point for unidentified microorganisms that trigger gangrenous facial infections. To catalog bacteria present in noma lesions and identify candidate noma-triggering organisms, we performed a cross-sectional sequencing study of 16S rRNA gene amplicons from sixty samples of gingival fluid from twelve healthy children, twelve children suffering from noma (lesion and healthy sites), and twelve children suffering from Acute Necrotizing Gingivitis (ANG) (lesion and healthy sites). Relative to healthy individuals, samples taken from lesions in diseased mouths were enriched with Spirochaetes and depleted for Proteobacteria. Samples taken from healthy sites of diseased mouths had proportions of Spirochaetes and Proteobacteria that were similar to healthy control individuals. Samples from noma mouths did not have a higher abundance of Fusobacterium, casting doubt on its role as a causative agent of noma. Microbial communities sampled from noma and ANG lesions were dominated by the same Prevotella intermedia OTU, which was much less abundant in healthy sites sampled from the same mouths. Multivariate analysis confirmed that bacterial communities in healthy and lesion sites were significantly different. Several OTUs in the Orders Erysipelotrichales, Clostridiales, Bacteroidales, and Spirochaetales were identified as indicators of noma, suggesting that one or more microbes within these Orders is associated with the development of noma lesions. Future studies should include longitudinal sampling of viral and microbial components of this community, before and early in noma lesion development.
Author Summary
Noma is a traumatic disease characterized by oral-facial lesions that often lead to severe disfigurement and ultimately shame and isolation from the community. Because the causes of noma are likely to be numerous, and reaching those who suffer from this illness is challenging, the etiology of noma remains ill-defined. Although it is known that oral hygiene and nutrition influence the development of noma, evidence suggests that one or more microbes play a crucial role in development of noma lesions. Previous studies have examined the DNA of microbes in lesions to determine which species are present and how their abundances differ between healthy mouth sites and noma lesions. These studies used techniques that were state-of-the-art at the time, though we know they likely only scratched the surface of the resident microbial diversity. Here we extend these studies by digging deeper to characterize a larger diversity of microbial species in noma and control samples, with the goal of better identifying which microbes are uniquely present or have altered abundances in noma lesions.
PMCID: PMC4256271  PMID: 25474262
13.  Metabolic Reconstruction for Metagenomic Data and Its Application to the Human Microbiome 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(6):e1002358.
Microbial communities carry out the majority of the biochemical activity on the planet, and they play integral roles in processes including metabolism and immune homeostasis in the human microbiome. Shotgun sequencing of such communities' metagenomes provides information complementary to organismal abundances from taxonomic markers, but the resulting data typically comprise short reads from hundreds of different organisms and are at best challenging to assemble comparably to single-organism genomes. Here, we describe an alternative approach to infer the functional and metabolic potential of a microbial community metagenome. We determined the gene families and pathways present or absent within a community, as well as their relative abundances, directly from short sequence reads. We validated this methodology using a collection of synthetic metagenomes, recovering the presence and abundance both of large pathways and of small functional modules with high accuracy. We subsequently applied this method, HUMAnN, to the microbial communities of 649 metagenomes drawn from seven primary body sites on 102 individuals as part of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). This provided a means to compare functional diversity and organismal ecology in the human microbiome, and we determined a core of 24 ubiquitously present modules. Core pathways were often implemented by different enzyme families within different body sites, and 168 functional modules and 196 metabolic pathways varied in metagenomic abundance specifically to one or more niches within the microbiome. These included glycosaminoglycan degradation in the gut, as well as phosphate and amino acid transport linked to host phenotype (vaginal pH) in the posterior fornix. An implementation of our methodology is available at This provides a means to accurately and efficiently characterize microbial metabolic pathways and functional modules directly from high-throughput sequencing reads, enabling the determination of community roles in the HMP cohort and in future metagenomic studies.
Author Summary
The human body is inhabited by trillions of bacteria and other microbes, which have recently been studied in many different habitats (including gut, mouth, skin, and urogenital) by the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). These microbial communities were assayed using high-throughput DNA sequencing, but it can be challenging to determine their biological functions based solely on the resulting short sequences. To reconstruct the metabolic activities of such communities, we have developed HUMAnN, a method to accurately infer community function directly from short DNA reads. The method's accuracy was validated using a collection of synthetic microbial communities. Applying HUMAnN to data from the HMP, we showed that, unlike individual microbial species, many metabolic processes were present among all body habitats. However, the frequencies of these processes varied dramatically, and some were highly enriched within individual habitats to provide niche specialization (e.g. in the gut, which is abundant in food matter but low in oxygen). Other community functions were linked specifically to properties of the human host, such as biochemical processes only present in vaginal habitats with particularly high or low pH. Studying additional environmental or disease-associated communities using HUMAnN will further improve our understanding of how the microbial organisms in a community are linked to the biological processes they carry out.
PMCID: PMC3374609  PMID: 22719234
14.  The Role of Innate Immune Responses in the Outcome of Interspecies Competition for Colonization of Mucosal Surfaces 
PLoS Pathogens  2005;1(1):e1.
Since mucosal surfaces may be simultaneously colonized by multiple species, the success of an organism may be determined by its ability to compete with co-inhabitants of its niche. To explore the contribution of host factors to polymicrobial competition, a murine model was used to study the initiation of colonization by Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae. Both bacterial species, which occupy a similar microenvironment within the nasopharynx, persisted during colonization when given individually. Co-colonization, however, resulted in rapid clearance of S. pneumoniae from the upper respiratory tract, associated with increased recruitment of neutrophils into paranasal spaces. Systemic depletion of either neutrophil-like cells or complement was sufficient to eliminate this competitive effect, indicating that clearance was likely due to enhanced opsonophagocytic killing. The hypothesis that modulation of opsonophagocytic activity was responsible for host-mediated competition was tested using in vitro killing assays with elicited neutrophil-like cells. Components of H. influenzae (but not S. pneumoniae) stimulated complement-dependent phagocytic killing of S. pneumoniae. Thus, the recruitment and activation of neutrophils through selective microbial pattern recognition may underlie the H. influenzae–induced clearance of S. pneumoniae. This study demonstrates how innate immune responses may mediate competitive interactions between species and dictate the composition of the colonizing flora.
Bacterial infection commonly begins with organisms that colonize and proliferate on mucosal surfaces. These microenvironments may be occupied by multiple microbial species, suggesting that successful colonizers are distinguished by their capacity to prevail over their competitors. This study examines interactions between two bacterial species that both colonize and infect the human upper respiratory tract. In a mouse model, strains of both Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae efficiently colonize the nasal mucosa when tested individually. In contrast, following co-inoculation, H. influenzae rapidly and completely outcompetes S. pneumoniae. This competitive effect is dependent on the local responses from the host in the form of a specific type of white blood cell (neutrophil) that acts to engulf and kill microorganisms that have been labeled by proteins that bind to microbial surfaces (complement). The results of this study show that recognition of microbial products from one species may activate inflammatory responses that promote the clearance of another competing species. This study also demonstrates how manipulations such as antibiotics or vaccines, which are meant to diminish the presence of a single pathogen, may inadvertently alter the competitive interactions of complex microbial communities.
PMCID: PMC1238736  PMID: 16201010
15.  Dismicrobism in inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer: Changes in response of colocytes 
World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG  2014;20(48):18121-18130.
Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have an increased risk of 10%-15% developing colorectal cancer (CRC) that is a common disease of high economic costs in developed countries. The CRC has been increasing in recent years and its mortality rates are very high. Multiple biological and biochemical factors are responsible for the onset and progression of this pathology. Moreover, it appears absolutely necessary to investigate the environmental factors favoring the onset of CRC and the promotion of colonic health. The gut microflora, or microbiota, has an extensive diversity both quantitatively and qualitatively. In utero, the intestine of the mammalian fetus is sterile. At birth, the intestinal microbiota is acquired by ingesting maternal anal or vaginal organisms, ultimately developing into a stable community, with marked variations in microbial composition between individuals. The development of IBD is often associated with qualitative and quantitative disorders of the intestinal microbial flora (dysbiosis). The healthy human gut harbours about 10 different bacterial species distributed in colony forming units which colonize the gastrointestinal tract. The intestinal microbiota plays a fundamental role in health and in the progression of diseases such as IBD and CRC. In healthy subjects, the main control of intestinal bacterial colonization occurs through gastric acidity but other factors such as endoluminal temperature, competition between different bacterial strains, peristalsis and drugs can influence the intestinal microenvironment. The microbiota exerts diverse physiological functions to include: growth inhibition of pathogenic microorganisms, synthesis of compounds useful for the trophism of colonic mucosa, regulation of intestinal lymphoid tissue and synthesis of amino acids. Furthermore, mucus seems to play an important role in protecting the intestinal mucosa and maintaining its integrity. Changes in the microbiota composition are mainly influenced by diet and age, as well as genetic factors. Increasing evidence indicates that dysbiosis favors the production of genotoxins and metabolites associated with carcinogenesis and induces dysregulation of the immune response which promotes and sustains inflammation in IBD leading to carcinogenesis. A disequilibrium in gut microflora composition leads to the specific activation of gut associated lymphoid tissue. The associated chronic inflammatory process associated increases the risk of developing CRC. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two major IBDs characterized by an early onset and extraintestinal manifestations, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The pathogenesis of both diseases is complex and not yet fully known. However, it is widely accepted that an inappropriate immune response to microbial flora can play a pivotal role in IBD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4277951  PMID: 25561781
Dismicrobism; Inflammatory bowel disease; Colorectal Cancer; Dysbiosis; Eubiosis; Heat shock proteins
16.  A short-oligonucleotide microarray that allows improved detection of gastrointestinal tract microbial communities 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:195.
The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract contains a diverse collection of bacteria, most of which are unculturable by conventional microbiological methods. Increasingly molecular profiling techniques are being employed to examine this complex microbial community. The purpose of this study was to develop a microarray technique based on 16S ribosomal gene sequences for rapidly monitoring the microbial population of the GI tract.
We have developed a culture-independent, semi-quantitative, rapid method for detection of gut bacterial populations based on 16S rDNA probes using a DNA microarray. We compared the performance of microarrays based on long (40- and 50-mer) and short (16–21-mer) oligonucleotides. Short oligonucleotides consistently gave higher specificity. Optimal DNA amplification and labelling, hybridisation and washing conditions were determined using a probe with an increasing number of nucleotide mismatches, identifying the minimum number of nucleotides needed to distinguish between perfect and mismatch probes. An independent PCR-based control was used to normalise different hybridisation results, and to make comparisons between different samples, greatly improving the detection of changes in the gut bacterial population. The sensitivity of the microarray was determined to be 8.8 × 104 bacterial cells g-1 faecal sample, which is more sensitive than a number of existing profiling methods. The short oligonucleotide microarray was used to compare the faecal flora from healthy individuals and a patient suffering from Ulcerative Colitis (UC) during the active and remission states. Differences were identified in the bacterial profiles between healthy individuals and a UC patient. These variations were verified by Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE) and DNA sequencing.
In this study we demonstrate the design, testing and application of a highly sensitive, short oligonucleotide community microarray. Our approach allows the rapid discrimination of bacteria inhabiting the human GI tract, at taxonomic levels ranging from species to the superkingdom bacteria. The optimised protocol is available at: . It offers a high throughput method for studying the dynamics of the bacterial population over time and between individuals.
PMCID: PMC2628385  PMID: 19014434
17.  Noninvasive Analysis of Microbiome Dynamics in the Fruit Fly Drosophila melanogaster 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2013;79(22):6984-6988.
The diversity and structure of the intestinal microbial community has a strong influence on life history. To understand how hosts and microbes interact, model organisms with comparatively simple microbial communities, such as the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), offer key advantages. However, studies of the Drosophila microbiome are limited to a single point in time, because flies are typically sacrificed for DNA extraction. In order to test whether noninvasive approaches, such as sampling of fly feces, could be a means to assess fly-associated communities over time on the same cohort of flies, we compared the microbial communities of fly feces, dissected fly intestines, and whole flies across three different Drosophila strains. Bacterial species identified in either whole flies or isolated intestines were reproducibly found in feces samples. Although the bacterial communities of feces and intestinal samples were not identical, they shared similarities and obviously the same origin. In contrast to material from whole flies and intestines, feces samples were not compromised by Wolbachia spp. infections, which are widespread in laboratory and wild strains. In a proof-of-principle experiment, we showed that simple nutritional interventions, such as a high-fat diet or short-term starvation, had drastic and long-lasting effects on the micobiome. Thus, the analysis of feces can supplement the toolbox for microbiome studies in Drosophila, unleashing the full potential of such studies in time course experiments where multiple samples from single populations are obtained during aging, development, or experimental manipulations.
PMCID: PMC3811555  PMID: 24014528
18.  Nod1 Signaling Overcomes Resistance of S. pneumoniae to Opsonophagocytic Killing 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(8):e118.
Airway infection by the Gram-positive pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae (Sp) leads to recruitment of neutrophils but limited bacterial killing by these cells. Co-colonization by Sp and a Gram-negative species, Haemophilus influenzae (Hi), provides sufficient stimulus to induce neutrophil and complement-mediated clearance of Sp from the mucosal surface in a murine model. Products from Hi, but not Sp, also promote killing of Sp by ex vivo neutrophil-enriched peritoneal exudate cells. Here we identify the stimulus from Hi as its peptidoglycan. Enhancement of opsonophagocytic killing was facilitated by signaling through nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-1 (Nod1), which is involved in recognition of γ-D-glutamyl-meso-diaminopimelic acid (meso-DAP) contained in cell walls of Hi but not Sp. Neutrophils from mice treated with Hi or compounds containing meso-DAP, including synthetic peptidoglycan fragments, showed increased Sp killing in a Nod1-dependent manner. Moreover, Nod1−/− mice showed reduced Hi-induced clearance of Sp during co-colonization. These observations offer insight into mechanisms of microbial competition and demonstrate the importance of Nod1 in neutrophil-mediated clearance of bacteria in vivo.
Author Summary
Pathogens are generally studied in the laboratory one species at a time. Most exist, however, in complex environments where they must adapt not only to their host but also to other members of the microbial flora. Using a mouse model of co-colonization, we have shown that one bacterial species (Haemophilus influenzae) can take advantage of the innate immune response of its host to outcompete and eliminate another species (Streptococcus pneumoniae) that resides in the same microenvironment of the upper respiratory tract. The molecular mechanism for this effect involves recognition of a cell wall fragment found on H. influenzae, but not on S. pneumoniae. The response to this immunostimulatory fragment requires Nod1, a host molecule that transmits inflammatory signals in response to specific peptides of the bacterial cell wall. This Nod1-mediated inflammatory stimulation triggers an increase in the ability of a type of white blood cell (neutrophil) to engulf and then kill S. pneumoniae, effectively removing it from its niche on the mucosal surface of the host airway. Our study, therefore, provides a demonstration of the importance of Nod1 in neutrophil-mediated clearance of bacterial infection. In addition, we have described a mechanism for interspecies competition between microbes that occurs through selective stimulation of host innate immune responses.
PMCID: PMC1950946  PMID: 17722978
Colonization of the gastrointestinal tract by bacteria of the normal flora was followed by bacteriological and special histological techniques in mice from several colonies. These histological techniques were designed to preserve the intimate associations that become established between particular strains of microorganisms and the epithelium of the mucosa of certain areas of the gut. The findings were as follows: 1. The various strains of bacteria of the normal flora became established in the different areas of the guts of infant mice according to a definite time sequence. 2. The first types of bacteria that could be cultured from the gut were lactobacilli and Group N streptococci. Within the first day after birth, these bacteria colonized the entire digestive tract and formed layers on the stratified squamous epithelium of the nonsecreting portion of the stomach and of the distal esophagus. 3. The bacterial types that appeared next were coliforms and enterococci. From about the 9th to the 18th day after birth, these bacteria could be cultured in extremely high numbers from the cecum and the colon. Histological sections of those organs taken during the first 2 or 3 days of that interval revealed microcolonies of Gram-positive cocci in pairs and tiny Gram-negative rods embedded in the mucous layer of the epithelium. The microcolonies were well separated from the mixture of digesta and bacteria that occupied the center of the lumen; they may have consisted of the coliforms and enterococci mentioned above; but this possibility remains to be proved. 4. Histological sections also revealed that, at about the 12th day after birth, long, thin Gram-variable rods with tapering ends were present, side by side, with the small Gram-negative rods and Gram-positive cocci in the mucous layer. By the 15th day after birth, the fusiform bacteria formed thick layers in the mucus, and seemed to be the only bacteria remaining in that location. It has not yet been possible to enumerate these tapered rods by culture methods, but as judged by visual appearances in the histological sections, they seemed to outnumber all other bacteria in the cecum and the colon by a factor of as much as 1000. It must be stressed that these bacterial layers are readily disrupted and even washed away by conventional histological techniques; their discovery was largely due to the use of the special histological techniques described in the text. The bacteriological and histological findings described here constitute further evidence for the hypothesis that symbiotic associations exist between microorganisms and animals, and that a very large percentage of the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract constitutes a true autochthonous flora. The constant occurrence of several distinct associations of bacteria with the special histological structures of the animal host renders obsolete the notion that the intestine constitutes a chemostat in which the bacterial populations are randomly mixed. For a full understanding of the ecology of the normal microflora, it is necessary to think of body surfaces as distinct microenvironments in which virtually pure cultures of a few species of microorganisms interact with their host and the adjacent microbial populations. Experiments based on this hypothesis are admittedly difficult to design, but on the other hand studies based on the assumption that microorganisms exist as mixtures in the gastrointestinal tract will be only of limited value and may often be misleading.
PMCID: PMC2138434  PMID: 4169441
20.  Implication of the Mosquito Midgut Microbiota in the Defense against Malaria Parasites 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(5):e1000423.
Malaria-transmitting mosquitoes are continuously exposed to microbes, including their midgut microbiota. This naturally acquired microbial flora can modulate the mosquito's vectorial capacity by inhibiting the development of Plasmodium and other human pathogens through an unknown mechanism. We have undertaken a comprehensive functional genomic approach to elucidate the molecular interplay between the bacterial co-infection and the development of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in its natural vector Anopheles gambiae. Global transcription profiling of septic and aseptic mosquitoes identified a significant subset of immune genes that were mostly up-regulated by the mosquito's microbial flora, including several anti-Plasmodium factors. Microbe-free aseptic mosquitoes displayed an increased susceptibility to Plasmodium infection while co-feeding mosquitoes with bacteria and P. falciparum gametocytes resulted in lower than normal infection levels. Infection analyses suggest the bacteria-mediated anti-Plasmodium effect is mediated by the mosquitoes' antimicrobial immune responses, plausibly through activation of basal immunity. We show that the microbiota can modulate the anti-Plasmodium effects of some immune genes. In sum, the microbiota plays an essential role in modulating the mosquito's capacity to sustain Plasmodium infection.
Author Summary
The Anopheles gambiae mosquito that transmits the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium has an intestinal bacterial flora, or microbiota, which comprises a variety of species. Elimination of this microbiota with antibiotic treatment will render the Anopheles mosquito more susceptible to Plasmodium infection. In this study we show that these bacteria can inhibit the infection of the mosquito with the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum through a mechanism that involves the mosquito's immune system. Our study suggests that the microbial flora of mosquitoes is stimulating a basal immune activity, which comprises several factors with known anti-Plasmodium activity. The same immune factors that are needed to control the mosquito's microbiota are also defending against the malaria parasite Plasmodium. This complex interplay among the mosquito's microbiota, the innate immune system, and the Plasmodium parasite may have significant implications for the transmission of malaria in the field where the bacterial exposure of mosquitoes may differ greatly between ecological niches.
PMCID: PMC2673032  PMID: 19424427
21.  Correlation Network Analysis Applied to Complex Biofilm Communities 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28438.
The complexity of the human microbiome makes it difficult to reveal organizational principles of the community and even more challenging to generate testable hypotheses. It has been suggested that in the gut microbiome species such as Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron are keystone in maintaining the stability and functional adaptability of the microbial community. In this study, we investigate the interspecies associations in a complex microbial biofilm applying systems biology principles. Using correlation network analysis we identified bacterial modules that represent important microbial associations within the oral community. We used dental plaque as a model community because of its high diversity and the well known species-species interactions that are common in the oral biofilm. We analyzed samples from healthy individuals as well as from patients with periodontitis, a polymicrobial disease. Using results obtained by checkerboard hybridization on cultivable bacteria we identified modules that correlated well with microbial complexes previously described. Furthermore, we extended our analysis using the Human Oral Microbe Identification Microarray (HOMIM), which includes a large number of bacterial species, among them uncultivated organisms present in the mouth. Two distinct microbial communities appeared in healthy individuals while there was one major type in disease. Bacterial modules in all communities did not overlap, indicating that bacteria were able to effectively re-associate with new partners depending on the environmental conditions. We then identified hubs that could act as keystone species in the bacterial modules. Based on those results we then cultured a not-yet-cultivated microorganism, Tannerella sp. OT286 (clone BU063). After two rounds of enrichment by a selected helper (Prevotella oris OT311) we obtained colonies of Tannerella sp. OT286 growing on blood agar plates. This system-level approach would open the possibility of manipulating microbial communities in a targeted fashion as well as associating certain bacterial modules to clinical traits (e.g.: obesity, Crohn's disease, periodontal disease, etc).
PMCID: PMC3233593  PMID: 22163302
22.  Effects of Diet on Resource Utilization by a Model Human Gut Microbiota Containing Bacteroides cellulosilyticus WH2, a Symbiont with an Extensive Glycobiome 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(8):e1001637.
Artificial human gut microbial communities implanted into germ-free mice provide insights into how species-level responses to changes in diet give rise to community-level structural and functional reconfiguration and how types of bacteria prioritize use of available nutrients in vivo.
The human gut microbiota is an important metabolic organ, yet little is known about how its individual species interact, establish dominant positions, and respond to changes in environmental factors such as diet. In this study, gnotobiotic mice were colonized with an artificial microbiota comprising 12 sequenced human gut bacterial species and fed oscillating diets of disparate composition. Rapid, reproducible, and reversible changes in the structure of this assemblage were observed. Time-series microbial RNA-Seq analyses revealed staggered functional responses to diet shifts throughout the assemblage that were heavily focused on carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism. High-resolution shotgun metaproteomics confirmed many of these responses at a protein level. One member, Bacteroides cellulosilyticus WH2, proved exceptionally fit regardless of diet. Its genome encoded more carbohydrate active enzymes than any previously sequenced member of the Bacteroidetes. Transcriptional profiling indicated that B. cellulosilyticus WH2 is an adaptive forager that tailors its versatile carbohydrate utilization strategy to available dietary polysaccharides, with a strong emphasis on plant-derived xylans abundant in dietary staples like cereal grains. Two highly expressed, diet-specific polysaccharide utilization loci (PULs) in B. cellulosilyticus WH2 were identified, one with characteristics of xylan utilization systems. Introduction of a B. cellulosilyticus WH2 library comprising >90,000 isogenic transposon mutants into gnotobiotic mice, along with the other artificial community members, confirmed that these loci represent critical diet-specific fitness determinants. Carbohydrates that trigger dramatic increases in expression of these two loci and many of the organism's 111 other predicted PULs were identified by RNA-Seq during in vitro growth on 31 distinct carbohydrate substrates, allowing us to better interpret in vivo RNA-Seq and proteomics data. These results offer insight into how gut microbes adapt to dietary perturbations at both a community level and from the perspective of a well-adapted symbiont with exceptional saccharolytic capabilities, and illustrate the value of artificial communities.
Author Summary
Our intestines are populated by an almost unimaginably large number of microbial cells, most of which are bacteria. This species assemblage operates as a microbial metabolic organ, performing myriad tasks that contribute to our well-being, including processing components of our diet. The way this incredible machine assembles itself and operates remains mysterious. One approach to understanding its properties is to create artificial communities composed of a limited number of sequenced human gut bacterial species and to install them in the guts of germ-free mice that are then fed different diets. In this report, we adopt this approach. We describe the genome sequence of a new gut bacterial isolate, Bacteroides cellulosilyticus WH2, which is equipped with an unprecedented number of carbohydrate active enzymes. Deploying four different “omics” technologies, we characterize the response to diet, the relative stability, and the temporal dynamics of a 12-species artificial bacterial assemblage (including B. cellulosilyticus WH2) implanted in germ-free mouse guts. We also combine high-throughput substrate utilization screens and RNA-Seq to generate reference data analogous to a “Rosetta stone” in order to decipher what types of carbohydrates B. cellulosilyticus encounters and uses within the gut, and how it interacts with other organisms that have similar and/or distinct “professions.” This work sets the stage for future ecological and metabolic studies of more complex assemblages that more fully emulate the properties of our native gut communities.
PMCID: PMC3747994  PMID: 23976882
23.  An in vitro biofilm model system maintaining a highly reproducible species and metabolic diversity approaching that of the human oral microbiome 
Microbiome  2013;1:25.
Our knowledge of microbial diversity in the human oral cavity has vastly expanded during the last two decades of research. However, much of what is known about the behavior of oral species to date derives from pure culture approaches and the studies combining several cultivated species, which likely does not fully reflect their function in complex microbial communities. It has been shown in studies with a limited number of cultivated species that early oral biofilm development occurs in a successional manner and that continuous low pH can lead to an enrichment of aciduric species. Observations that in vitro grown plaque biofilm microcosms can maintain similar pH profiles in response to carbohydrate addition as plaque in vivo suggests a complex microbial community can be established in the laboratory. In light of this, our primary goal was to develop a robust in vitro biofilm-model system from a pooled saliva inoculum in order to study the stability, reproducibility, and development of the oral microbiome, and its dynamic response to environmental changes from the community to the molecular level.
Comparative metagenomic analyses confirmed a high similarity of metabolic potential in biofilms to recently available oral metagenomes from healthy subjects as part of the Human Microbiome Project. A time-series metagenomic analysis of the taxonomic community composition in biofilms revealed that the proportions of major species at 3 hours of growth are maintained during 48 hours of biofilm development. By employing deep pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene to investigate this biofilm model with regards to bacterial taxonomic diversity, we show a high reproducibility of the taxonomic carriage and proportions between: 1) individual biofilm samples; 2) biofilm batches grown at different dates; 3) DNA extraction techniques and 4) research laboratories.
Our study demonstrates that we now have the capability to grow stable oral microbial in vitro biofilms containing more than one hundred operational taxonomic units (OTU) which represent 60-80% of the original inoculum OTU richness. Previously uncultivated Human Oral Taxa (HOT) were identified in the biofilms and contributed to approximately one-third of the totally captured 16S rRNA gene diversity. To our knowledge, this represents the highest oral bacterial diversity reported for an in vitro model system so far. This robust model will help investigate currently uncultivated species and the known virulence properties for many oral pathogens not solely restricted to pure culture systems, but within multi-species biofilms.
PMCID: PMC3971625  PMID: 24451062
In vitro model; Biofilm; Oral microbiome; Saliva; Streptococcus; Lactobacillus; Uncultivated bacteria
24.  Analysis of the Intestinal Lumen Microbiota in an Animal Model of Colorectal Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90849.
Recent reports have suggested that multiple factors such as host genetics, environment and diet can promote the progression of healthy mucosa towards sporadic colorectal carcinoma. Accumulating evidence has additionally associated intestinal bacteria with disease initiation and progression. In order to examine and analyze the composition of gut microbiota in the absence of confounding influences, we have established an animal model of 1, 2-dimethylhydrazine (DMH)-induced colon cancer. Using this model, we have performed pyrosequencing of the V3 region of the 16S rRNA genes in this study to determine the diversity and breadth of the intestinal microbial species. Our findings indicate that the microbial composition of the intestinal lumen differs significantly between control and tumor groups. The abundance of Firmicutes was elevated whereas the abundance of Bacteroidetes and Spirochetes was reduced in the lumen of CRC rats. Fusobacteria was not detected in any of the healthy rats and there was no significant difference in observed Proteobacteria species when comparing the bacterial communities between our two groups. Interestingly, the abundance of Proteobacteria was higher in CRC rats. At the genus level, Bacteroides exhibited a relatively higher abundance in CRC rats compared to controls (14.92% vs. 9.22%, p<0.001). Meanwhile, Prevotella (55.22% vs. 26.19%), Lactobacillus (3.71% vs. 2.32%) and Treponema (3.04% vs. 2.43%), were found to be significantly more abundant in healthy rats than CRC rats (p<0.001, respectively). We also demonstrate a significant reduction of butyrate-producing bacteria such as Roseburia and Eubacterium in the gut microbiota of CRC rats. Furthermore, a significant increase in Desulfovibrio, Erysipelotrichaceae and Fusobacterium was also observed in the tumor group. A decrease in probiotic species such as Ruminococcus and Lactobacillus was likewise observed in the tumor group. Collectively, we can conclude that a significant difference in intestinal bacterial flora exists between healthy rats and CRC rats.
PMCID: PMC3946251  PMID: 24603888
25.  Strong inter-population cooperation leads to partner intermixing in microbial communities 
eLife  null;2:e00230.
Patterns of spatial positioning of individuals within microbial communities are often critical to community function. However, understanding patterning in natural communities is hampered by the multitude of cell–cell and cell–environment interactions as well as environmental variability. Here, through simulations and experiments on communities in defined environments, we examined how ecological interactions between two distinct partners impacted community patterning. We found that in strong cooperation with spatially localized large fitness benefits to both partners, a unique pattern is generated: partners spatially intermixed by appearing successively on top of each other, insensitive to initial conditions and interaction dynamics. Intermixing was experimentally observed in two obligatory cooperative systems: an engineered yeast community cooperating through metabolite-exchanges and a methane-producing community cooperating through redox-coupling. Even in simulated communities consisting of several species, most of the strongly-cooperating pairs appeared intermixed. Thus, when ecological interactions are the major patterning force, strong cooperation leads to partner intermixing.
eLife digest
Microorganisms such as bacteria, archaea and tiny eukaryotes are found throughout the biosphere. Some of these microorganisms are pathogens that cause diseases in animals, while others provide nutrients, including essential amino acids and vitamins; there are also microorganisms that have critical roles in recycling elements such as carbon, nitrogen and oxygen in the biosphere. In the natural world, microorganisms interact with their environment and with each other, often competing for space, light and nutrients, but sometimes they act cooperatively, which benefits all parties involved.
Microbial communities exhibit spatial patterns that reflect the relative positioning of different microbes in a community. These patterns can be critical for the proper functioning of a microbial community. For example, in the microbial granules that digest organic compounds in waste water, the stratified pattern of different microbial species can be thought of as a sequence of catalysts needed to perform a series of biochemical processing steps. Thus, it is important to understand the mechanisms that drive pattern formation in multispecies communities.
Now, through a combination of simulations and experiments, Momeni et al. have identified two features of spatial patterns in two-population microbial communities when pattern formation is driven by fitness effects related to the ecological interactions between cells. First, interactions that confer significant advantages to at least one of the populations can potentially result in the generation of a stable community; the community is stable in the sense that if it is disturbed, it will return to its stable population composition following the disturbance. Indeed, in engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae communities, very different initial population ratios converged to the same value over time when one strain depended on the other strain, or when the two strains depended on each other, but not when the two strains competed.
The second feature applies to microbial communities composed of two cooperating populations: whereas two populations that compete with each other tend to segregate, cooperation results in the members of the two populations mixing together. Momeni et al. observe the formation of such an “intermixed” community in simulations, and also in two experimental systems that involve cooperation—a community containing two different strains of yeast cooperating through metabolite exchange, and a biofilm in which Methanococcus maripaludis, an archaeon that produces methane, cooperates with the bacterium Desulfovibrio vulgaris.
These two features of spatial patterning are conceptually similar to the competitive exclusion principle, which states that two species competing for the same resources cannot stably coexist if competition is the sole force at work. This principle has, therefore, encouraged scientists to search for the other forces that must be responsible for the coexistence of different species. Similarly, by predicting the sorts of patterns that will form when the fitness effects of ecological interactions between cells are the only forces at work, Momeni et al. lay the groundwork for investigations into other mechanisms, such as cell–environment interactions and active cell motility, that can govern pattern formation in microbial communities.
PMCID: PMC3552619  PMID: 23359860
pattern formation; microbial communities; cooperation; ecological interactions; methanogenic biofilms; syntrophic biofilms; S. cerevisiae

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