Collective effects of human genomic variation on microbiome function

Felicia N. New, Benjamin R Baer, Andrew G. Clark, Martin T. Wells, Ilana L. Brito*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Studies of the impact of host genetics on gut microbiome composition have mainly focused on the impact of individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on gut microbiome composition, without considering their collective impact or the specific functions of the microbiome. To assess the aggregate role of human genetics on the gut microbiome composition and function, we apply sparse canonical correlation analysis (sCCA), a flexible, multivariate data integration method. A critical attribute of metagenome data is its sparsity, and here we propose application of a Tweedie distribution to accommodate this. We use the TwinsUK cohort to analyze the gut microbiomes and human variants of 250 individuals. Sparse CCA, or sCCA, identified SNPs in microbiome-associated metabolic traits (BMI, blood pressure) and microbiome-associated disorders (type 2 diabetes, some neurological disorders) and certain cancers. Both common and rare microbial functions such as secretion system proteins or antibiotic resistance were found to be associated with host genetics. sCCA applied to microbial species abundances found known associations such as Bifidobacteria species, as well as novel associations. Despite our small sample size, our method can identify not only previously known associations, but novel ones as well. Overall, we present a new and flexible framework for examining host-microbiome genetic interactions, and we provide a new dimension to the current debate around the role of human genetics on the gut microbiome.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3839
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2022


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