The parasite Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for hundreds of millions of cases of malaria, and kills more than one million African children annually. Here we report an analysis of the genome sequence of P. falciparum clone 3D7. The 23-megabase nuclear genome consists of 14 chromosomes, encodes about 5,300 genes, and is the most (A + T)-rich genome sequenced to date. Genes involved in antigenic variation are concentrated in the subtelomeric regions of the chromosomes. Compared to the genomes of free-living eukaryotic microbes, the genome of this intracellular parasite encodes fewer enzymes and transporters, but a large proportion of genes are devoted to immune evasion and host–parasite interactions. Many nuclear-encoded proteins are targeted to the apicoplast, an organelle involved in fatty-acid and isoprenoid metabolism. The genome sequence provides the foundation for future studies of this organism, and is being exploited in the search for new drugs and vaccines to fight malaria.
Elucidating the biogeography of bacterial communities on the human body is critical for establishing healthy baselines from which to detect differences associated with disease; however, little is known about the baseline bacterial profiles from various human habitats of healthy Chinese undergraduates.
Using parallel barcoded 454 pyrosequencing targeting on the 16S rRNA gene V3 region, the bacterial diversity of the nasopharynx, saliva, dominant hands, and feces were investigated from 10 healthy Chinese junior boarding undergraduates at Zhejiang University. The participants were 21–24 years of age with a body mass index (BMI) < 24 kg/m2. A total of 156,717 high-quality pyrosequencing reads were obtained for evaluating bacterial diversity, which represented 29,887 unique phylotypes. The overall taxonomic distribution of the 16S rRNA gene-based amplicons demonstrated that these 4 habitats of the human body harbored distinct microbiota and could be divided into different clusters according to anatomic site, while the established patterns of bacterial diversity followed the human body habitat (feces, hands, saliva, and nasopharynx). Although significant inter-individual variation was observed, the healthy microbiota still shared a large number of phylotypes in each habitat, but not among the four habitats, indicating that a core microbiome existed in each healthy habitat. The vast majority of sequences from these different habitats were classified into different taxonmies that became the predominant bacteria of the healthy microbiota.
We first established the framework of microbial communities from four healthy human habitats of the same participants with similar living environments for the Chinese undergraduates. Our data represent an important step for determining the diversity of Chinese healthy microbiota, and can be used for more large-scale studies that focus on the interactions between healthy and diseases states for young Chinese adults in the same age range.
Healthy microbiota; Saliva; Nasopharynx; Feces; Dominant hand; Pyrosequencing; Core microbiome
Background & Aims
Intestinal dysbiosis and bacterial translocation is common in patients with advanced liver disease, and there is strong evidence that the translocation of bacteria and their products across the epithelial barrier drives experimental liver disease progression. The aims of our study were to investigate dynamics of bacterial translocation and changes in the enteric microbiome in early stages of liver disease.
Cholestatic liver injury was induced by ligation of the common bile duct (BDL) and toxic liver injury by injection of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) in mice.
Increased intestinal permeability and bacterial translocation occurred one day following liver injury in both disease models. This was accompanied by decreased intestinal expression of the tight junction protein occludin. Although BDL resulted in a rapid onset of intestinal bacterial overgrowth, bacterial overgrowth was observed in mice injected with CCl4 only in advanced stages of liver fibrosis. To further assess the qualitative changes in the intestinal microbiome, massively parallel pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA genes revealed minor microbial changes following BDL, while CCl4 administration resulted in a relative abundance of Firmicutes and Actinobacteria compared with oil injected mice. Four different liver disease models (cholestasis, toxic, alcohol, obesity) show few similarities in their intestinal microbiome.
Acute liver injury is associated with an early onset of increased intestinal permeability and bacterial translocation that precede changes in the microbiome. The enteric microbiome differs with respect to the etiology of liver disease.
bacterial overgrowth; microbiome; dysbiosis; bacterial translocation; 16S rRNA sequencing
Enterococcus faecalis is commonly isolated from the gastrointestinal tract of healthy infants and adults, where it contributes to host health and well-being. We describe here the draft genome sequence of E. faecalis PC1.1, a candidate probiotic strain isolated from human feces.
A variety of microbial communities and their genes (microbiome) exist throughout the human body, playing fundamental roles in human health and disease. The NIH funded Human Microbiome Project (HMP) Consortium has established a population-scale framework which catalyzed significant development of metagenomic protocols resulting in a broad range of quality-controlled resources and data including standardized methods for creating, processing and interpreting distinct types of high-throughput metagenomic data available to the scientific community. Here we present resources from a population of 242 healthy adults sampled at 15 to 18 body sites up to three times, which to date, have generated 5,177 microbial taxonomic profiles from 16S rRNA genes and over 3.5 Tb of metagenomic sequence. In parallel, approximately 800 human-associated reference genomes have been sequenced. Collectively, these data represent the largest resource to date describing the abundance and variety of the human microbiome, while providing a platform for current and future studies.
Comparative genomic hybridization was used to compare genetic diversity of five strains of Leptospira (Leptospira interrogans serovars Bratislava, Canicola, and Hebdomadis and Leptospira kirschneri serovars Cynopteri and Grippotyphosa). The array was designed based on two available sequenced Leptospira reference genomes, those of L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni and L. interrogans serovar Lai. A comparison of genetic contents showed that L. interrogans serovar Bratislava was closest to the reference genomes while L. kirschneri serovar Grippotyphosa had the least similarity to the reference genomes. Cluster analysis indicated that L. interrogans serovars Bratislava and Hebdomadis clustered together first, followed by L. interrogans serovar Canicola, before the two L. kirschneri strains. Confirmed/potential virulence factors identified in previous research were also detected in the tested strains.
Infections of the vaginal tract result from perturbations in the complex interactions between the microbiome and the host vaginal ecosystem. Recent data have linked specific vaginal microbes and urogenital infection with pre-term birth. Here we discuss how next generation sequencing-based approaches to study the vaginal microbiome will be important for defining what constitutes an imbalance of the microbiome and the associated host conditions that lead to subsequent infection and disease states. These studies will provide clinicians reliable diagnostic tools and treatments for women who are at increased risk for vaginal infections, preterm birth, HIV and other sexually acquired diseases, and will provide opportunities for intervention.
This manuscript describes the NIH Human Microbiome Project, including a brief review of human microbiome research, a history of the project, and a comprehensive overview of the consortium's recent collection of publications analyzing the human microbiome.
This study is the first to use a metagenomics approach to characterize the phylogeny and functional capacity of the canine gastrointestinal microbiome. Six healthy adult dogs were used in a crossover design and fed a low-fiber control diet (K9C) or one containing 7.5% beet pulp (K9BP). Pooled fecal DNA samples from each treatment were subjected to 454 pyrosequencing, generating 503 280 (K9C) and 505 061 (K9BP) sequences. Dominant bacterial phyla included the Bacteroidetes/Chlorobi group and Firmicutes, both of which comprised ∼35% of all sequences, followed by Proteobacteria (13–15%) and Fusobacteria (7–8%). K9C had a greater percentage of Bacteroidetes, Fusobacteria and Proteobacteria, whereas K9BP had greater proportions of the Bacteroidetes/Chlorobi group and Firmicutes. Archaea were not altered by diet and represented ∼1% of all sequences. All archaea were members of Crenarchaeota and Euryarchaeota, with methanogens being the most abundant and diverse. Three fungi phylotypes were present in K9C, but none in K9BP. Less than 0.4% of sequences were of viral origin, with >99% of them associated with bacteriophages. Primary functional categories were not significantly affected by diet and were associated with carbohydrates; protein metabolism; DNA metabolism; cofactors, vitamins, prosthetic groups and pigments; amino acids and derivatives; cell wall and capsule; and virulence. Hierarchical clustering of several gastrointestinal metagenomes demonstrated phylogenetic and metabolic similarity between dogs, humans and mice. More research is required to provide deeper coverage of the canine microbiome, evaluate effects of age, genetics or environment on its composition and activity, and identify its role in gastrointestinal disease.
canine gut; gastrointestinal bacteria; metagenomics; pyrosequencing
A steep drop in the cost of next-generation sequencing during recent years has made the technology affordable to the majority of researchers, but downstream bioinformatic analysis still poses a resource bottleneck for smaller laboratories and institutes that do not have access to substantial computational resources. Sequencing instruments are typically bundled with only the minimal processing and storage capacity required for data capture during sequencing runs. Given the scale of sequence datasets, scientific value cannot be obtained from acquiring a sequencer unless it is accompanied by an equal investment in informatics infrastructure.
Cloud BioLinux is a publicly accessible Virtual Machine (VM) that enables scientists to quickly provision on-demand infrastructures for high-performance bioinformatics computing using cloud platforms. Users have instant access to a range of pre-configured command line and graphical software applications, including a full-featured desktop interface, documentation and over 135 bioinformatics packages for applications including sequence alignment, clustering, assembly, display, editing, and phylogeny. Each tool's functionality is fully described in the documentation directly accessible from the graphical interface of the VM. Besides the Amazon EC2 cloud, we have started instances of Cloud BioLinux on a private Eucalyptus cloud installed at the J. Craig Venter Institute, and demonstrated access to the bioinformatic tools interface through a remote connection to EC2 instances from a local desktop computer. Documentation for using Cloud BioLinux on EC2 is available from our project website, while a Eucalyptus cloud image and VirtualBox Appliance is also publicly available for download and use by researchers with access to private clouds.
Cloud BioLinux provides a platform for developing bioinformatics infrastructures on the cloud. An automated and configurable process builds Virtual Machines, allowing the development of highly customized versions from a shared code base. This shared community toolkit enables application specific analysis platforms on the cloud by minimizing the effort required to prepare and maintain them.
Although Bacteroides vulgatus is one of the most prevalent microorganisms in the human gastrointestinal tract, little is known about the genetic potential of this species. Here, we describe the annotated draft genome sequence of B. vulgatus PC510 isolated from human feces.
The translocation of bacteria and bacterial products into the circulation contributes to alcoholic liver disease. Intestinal bacterial overgrowth is common in patients with alcoholic liver disease. The aims of our study were to investigate bacterial translocation, changes in the enteric microbiome, and its regulation by mucosal antimicrobial proteins in alcoholic liver disease. We used a mouse model of continuous intragastric feeding of alcohol or an isocaloric diet. Bacterial translocation occurred prior to changes observed in the microbiome. Quantitative changes in the intestinal microflora of these animals were assessed first by conventional culture techniques in the small and large intestine. Although we found no difference after 1 day or 1 week, intestinal bacterial overgrowth was observed in the gastrointestinal tract of mice fed alcohol for 3 weeks as compared to control liquid diet fed mice. Because less than 20% of all gastrointestinal bacteria are able to be cultured by conventional methodologies, we performed massively parallel pyrosequencing to further assess the qualitative changes in the intestinal microbiome following alcohol exposure. Sequencing of 16S rRNA genes revealed a relative abundance of Bacteroidetes and Verrucomicrobia bacteria in mice fed alcohol compared with a relative predominance of Firmicutes bacteria in control mice. With respect to the host’s transcriptome, alcohol feeding was associated with downregulation in gene and protein expression of bactericidal c-type lectins Reg3b and Reg3g in the small intestines. Treatment with prebiotics partially restored Reg3g protein levels, reduced bacterial overgrowth and lessened alcoholic steatohepatitis. In conclusion, alcohol feeding is associated with intestinal bacterial overgrowth and enteric dysbiosis. Intestinal antimicrobial molecules are dysregulated following chronic alcohol feeding contributing to changes in the enteric microbiome and to alcoholic steatohepatitis.
alcoholic liver disease; microbiome; dysbiosis; bacterial translocation
The primate order began radiating ∼ 55 million years ago and is today represented by more than 300 extant species. These species have adapted to inhabit a vast gradation of environments, consume a broad range of diets, come in a wide spectra of anatomical designs and exhibit myriad social structures. Determining the relationships among these variables, primate health and the taxonomic and functional compositions of their associated microbial ecosystems holds enormous potential to understand the forces shaping or perturbing our own microbiomes, and may offer clues to the evolved relationship between humans and these ecosystems. In addition, it may help to better direct conservation efforts toward the 48% of primates currently endangered. With these goals in mind we have spent the past few years cataloguing and exploring the gastrointestinal and vaginal microbial ecosystems of mostly wild primates. Functionally and compositionally microbiomes show clear delineation between host species and for the GI system between captive and wilds. Habitat quality affects foraging behavior impacting the microbiome with strong ties to host health. Several observations also hint at evolved traits that would benefit the host physiology.
While the microbiota resident in the human gut is now known to provide a range of functions relevant to host health, many of the microbial members of the community have not yet been cultured or are represented by a limited number of isolates. We describe here the draft genome sequence of Turicibacter sanguinis PC909, isolated from a pooled healthy human fecal sample as part of the Australian Human Gut Microbiome Project.
The human intestinal microbiota is composed of 1013 to 1014 microorganisms whose collective genome (“microbiome”) contains at least 100 times as many genes as our own genome. We analyzed ~78 million base pairs of unique DNA sequence and 2062 polymerase chain reaction–amplified 16S ribosomal DNA sequences obtained from the fecal DNAs of two healthy adults. Using metabolic function analyses of identified genes, we compared our human genome with the average content of previously sequenced microbial genomes. Our microbiome has significantly enriched metabolism of glycans, amino acids, and xenobiotics; methanogenesis; and 2-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate pathway–mediated biosynthesis of vitamins and isoprenoids. Thus, humans are superorganisms whose metabolism represents an amalgamation of microbial and human attributes.
Next-generation DNA sequencing is increasingly being utilized to probe microbial communities, such as gastrointestinal microbiomes, where it is important to be able to quantify measures of abundance and diversity. The fragmented nature of the 16S rRNA datasets obtained, coupled with their unprecedented size, has led to the recognition that the results of such analyses are potentially contaminated by a variety of artifacts, both experimental and computational. Here we quantify how multiple alignment and clustering errors contribute to overestimates of abundance and diversity, reflected by incorrect OTU assignment, corrupted phylogenies, inaccurate species diversity estimators, and rank abundance distribution functions. We show that straightforward procedural optimizations, combining preexisting tools, are effective in handling large () 16S rRNA datasets, and we describe metrics to measure the effectiveness and quality of the estimators obtained. We introduce two metrics to ascertain the quality of clustering of pyrosequenced rRNA data, and show that complete linkage clustering greatly outperforms other widely used methods.
Host-associated microbes comprise an integral part of animal digestive systems and these interactions have a long evolutionary history. It has been hypothesized that the gastrointestinal microbiome of humans and other non-human primates may have played significant roles in host evolution by facilitating a range of dietary adaptations. We have undertaken a comparative sequencing survey of the gastrointestinal microbiomes of several non-human primate species, with the goal of better understanding how these microbiomes relate to the evolution of non-human primate diversity. Here we present a comparative analysis of gastrointestinal microbial communities from three different species of Old World wild monkeys.
We analyzed fecal samples from three different wild non-human primate species (black-and-white colobus [Colubus guereza], red colobus [Piliocolobus tephrosceles], and red-tailed guenon [Cercopithecus ascanius]). Three samples from each species were subjected to small subunit rRNA tag pyrosequencing. Firmicutes comprised the vast majority of the phyla in each sample. Other phyla represented were Bacterioidetes, Proteobacteria, Spirochaetes, Actinobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, Lentisphaerae, Tenericutes, Planctomycetes, Fibrobacateres, and TM7. Bray-Curtis similarity analysis of these microbiomes indicated that microbial community composition within the same primate species are more similar to each other than to those of different primate species. Comparison of fecal microbiota from non-human primates with microbiota of human stool samples obtained in previous studies revealed that the gut microbiota of these primates are distinct and reflect host phylogeny.
Our analysis provides evidence that the fecal microbiomes of wild primates co-vary with their hosts, and that this is manifested in higher intraspecies similarity among wild primate species, perhaps reflecting species specificity of the microbiome in addition to dietary influences. These results contribute to the limited body of primate microbiome studies and provide a framework for comparative microbiome analysis between human and non-human primates as well as a comparative evolutionary understanding of the human microbiome.
The composition of the oral microbiota from 10 individuals with healthy oral tissues was determined using culture-independent techniques. From each individual, 26 specimens, each from different oral sites at a single point in time, were collected and pooled. An eleventh pool was constructed using portions of the subgingival specimens from all 10 individuals. The 16S rRNA gene was amplified using broad-range bacterial primers, and clone libraries from the individual and subgingival pools were constructed. From a total of 11 368 high-quality, non-chimeric, near full-length sequences, 247 species-level phylotypes (using a 99% sequence identity threshold) and 9 bacteria phyla were identified. At least 15 bacterial genera were conserved among all 10 individuals, with significant interindividual differences at the species and strain level. Comparisons of these oral bacterial sequences to near full-length sequences found previously in the large intestines and feces of other healthy individuals suggest that the mouth and intestinal tract harbor distinct sets of bacteria. Co-occurrence analysis demonstrated significant segregation of taxa when community membership was examined at the level of genus, but not at the level of species, suggesting that ecologically-significant, competitive interactions are more apparent at a broader taxonomic level than species. This study is one of the more comprehensive, high-resolution analyses of bacterial diversity within the healthy human mouth to date, and highlights the value of tools from macroecology for enhancing our understanding of bacterial ecology in human health.
oral microbiota; ribosomal RNA sequences; human microbial ecology
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an ecological disorder of the vaginal microbiota that affects millions of women annually, and is associated with numerous adverse health outcomes including pre-term birth and the acquisition of sexually transmitted infections. However, little is known about the overall structure and composition of vaginal microbial communities; most of the earlier studies focused on predominant vaginal bacteria in the process of BV. In the present study, the diversity and richness of vaginal microbiota in 50 BV positive and 50 healthy women from China were investigated using culture-independent PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and barcoded 454 pyrosequencing methods, and validated by quantitative PCR.
Our data demonstrated that there was a profound shift in the absolute and relative abundances of bacterial species present in the vagina when comparing populations associated with healthy and diseased conditions. In spite of significant interpersonal variations, the diversity of vaginal microbiota in the two groups could be clearly divided into two clusters. A total of 246,359 high quality pyrosequencing reads was obtained for evaluating bacterial diversity and 24,298 unique sequences represented all phylotypes. The most predominant phyla of bacteria identified in the vagina belonged to Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria and Fusobacteria. The higher number of phylotypes in BV positive women over healthy is consistent with the results of previous studies and a large number of low-abundance taxa which were missed in previous studies were revealed. Although no single bacterium could be identified as a specific marker for healthy over diseased conditions, three phyla - Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria and Fusobacteria, and eight genera including Gardnerella, Atopobium, Megasphaera, Eggerthella, Aerococcus, Leptotrichia/Sneathia, Prevotella and Papillibacter were strongly associated with BV (p < 0.05). These genera are potentially excellent markers and could be used as targets for clinical BV diagnosis by molecular approaches.
The data presented here have clearly profiled the overall structure of vaginal communities and clearly demonstrated that BV is associated with a dramatic increase in the taxonomic richness and diversity of vaginal microbiota. The study also provides the most comprehensive picture of the vaginal community structure and the bacterial ecosystem, and significantly contributes to the current understanding of the etiology of BV.
Microbial fuel cell (MFC) systems employ the catalytic activity of microbes to produce electricity from the oxidation of organic, and in some cases inorganic, substrates. MFC systems have been primarily explored for their use in bioremediation and bioenergy applications; however, these systems also offer a unique strategy for the cultivation of synergistic microbial communities. It has been hypothesized that the mechanism(s) of microbial electron transfer that enable electricity production in MFCs may be a cooperative strategy within mixed microbial consortia that is associated with, or is an alternative to, interspecies hydrogen (H2) transfer. Microbial fermentation processes and methanogenesis in ruminant animals are highly dependent on the consumption and production of H2in the rumen. Given the crucial role that H2 plays in ruminant digestion, it is desirable to understand the microbial relationships that control H2 partial pressures within the rumen; MFCs may serve as unique tools for studying this complex ecological system. Further, MFC systems offer a novel approach to studying biofilms that form under different redox conditions and may be applied to achieve a greater understanding of how microbial biofilms impact animal health. Here, we present a brief summary of the efforts made towards understanding rumen microbial ecology, microbial biofilms related to animal health, and how MFCs may be further applied in ruminant research.
Caldicellulosiruptor saccharolyticus is an extremely thermophilic, gram-positive anaerobe which ferments cellulose-, hemicellulose- and pectin-containing biomass to acetate, CO2, and hydrogen. Its broad substrate range, high hydrogen-producing capacity, and ability to coutilize glucose and xylose make this bacterium an attractive candidate for microbial bioenergy production. Here, the complete genome sequence of C. saccharolyticus, consisting of a 2,970,275-bp circular chromosome encoding 2,679 predicted proteins, is described. Analysis of the genome revealed that C. saccharolyticus has an extensive polysaccharide-hydrolyzing capacity for cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, and starch, coupled to a large number of ABC transporters for monomeric and oligomeric sugar uptake. The components of the Embden-Meyerhof and nonoxidative pentose phosphate pathways are all present; however, there is no evidence that an Entner-Doudoroff pathway is present. Catabolic pathways for a range of sugars, including rhamnose, fucose, arabinose, glucuronate, fructose, and galactose, were identified. These pathways lead to the production of NADH and reduced ferredoxin. NADH and reduced ferredoxin are subsequently used by two distinct hydrogenases to generate hydrogen. Whole-genome transcriptome analysis revealed that there is significant upregulation of the glycolytic pathway and an ABC-type sugar transporter during growth on glucose and xylose, indicating that C. saccharolyticus coferments these sugars unimpeded by glucose-based catabolite repression. The capacity to simultaneously process and utilize a range of carbohydrates associated with biomass feedstocks is a highly desirable feature of this lignocellulose-utilizing, biofuel-producing bacterium.
The extent of chromosome rearrangements in Pyrococcus isolates from marine hydrothermal vents in Vulcano Island, Italy, was evaluated by high-throughput genomic methods. The results illustrate the dynamic nature of the genomes of the genus Pyrococcus and raise the possibility of a connection between rapidly changing environmental conditions and adaptive genomic properties.
The plant cell wall, which consists of a highly complex array of interconnecting polysaccharides, is the most abundant source of organic carbon in the biosphere. Microorganisms that degrade the plant cell wall synthesize an extensive portfolio of hydrolytic enzymes that display highly complex molecular architectures. To unravel the intricate repertoire of plant cell wall-degrading enzymes synthesized by the saprophytic soil bacterium Cellvibrio japonicus, we sequenced and analyzed its genome, which predicts that the bacterium contains the complete repertoire of enzymes required to degrade plant cell wall and storage polysaccharides. Approximately one-third of these putative proteins (57) are predicted to contain carbohydrate binding modules derived from 13 of the 49 known families. Sequence analysis reveals approximately 130 predicted glycoside hydrolases that target the major structural and storage plant polysaccharides. In common with that of the colonic prokaryote Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, the genome of C. japonicus is predicted to encode a large number of GH43 enzymes, suggesting that the extensive arabinose decorations appended to pectins and xylans may represent a major nutrient source, not just for intestinal bacteria but also for microorganisms that occupy terrestrial ecosystems. The results presented here predict that C. japonicus possesses an extensive range of glycoside hydrolases, lyases, and esterases. Most importantly, the genome of C. japonicus is remarkably similar to that of the gram-negative marine bacterium, Saccharophagus degradans 2-40T. Approximately 50% of the predicted C. japonicus plant-degradative apparatus appears to be shared with S. degradans, consistent with the utilization of plant-derived complex carbohydrates as a major substrate by both organisms.
We reinvestigated the clonal diversity and dynamics of Streptococcus mitis and two other abundant members of the commensal microbiota of the upper respiratory tract, Streptococcus oralis and Streptococcus infantis, to obtain information about the origin of frequently emerging clones in this habitat. A culture-independent method was used, based on cloning and sequencing of PCR amplicons of the housekeeping gene gdh, which shows remarkable, yet species-specific, genetic polymorphism. Samples were collected from all potential ecological niches in the oral cavity and pharynx of two adults on two occasions separated by 2 years. Based on analysis of close to 10,000 sequences, significant diversity was observed in populations of all three species. Fluctuations in the relative proportions of individual clones and species were observed over time. While a few clones dominated, the proportions of most clones were very small. The results show that the frequent turnover of S. mitis, S. oralis, and S. infantis clones observed by cultivation can be explained by fluctuations in the relative proportions of clones, most of which are below the level of detection by the traditional culture technique, possibly combined with loss and acquisition from contacts. These findings provide a platform for understanding the mechanisms that govern the balance within the complex microbiota at mucosal sites and between the microbiota and the mucosal immune system of the host.