Testing the Neutral Theory of Biodiversity with Human Microbiome Datasets.
ABSTRACT: The human microbiome project (HMP) has made it possible to test important ecological theories for arguably the most important ecosystem to human health-the human microbiome. Existing limited number of studies have reported conflicting evidence in the case of the neutral theory; the present study aims to comprehensively test the neutral theory with extensive HMP datasets covering all five major body sites inhabited by the human microbiome. Utilizing 7437 datasets of bacterial community samples, we discovered that only 49 communities (less than 1%) satisfied the neutral theory, and concluded that human microbial communities are not neutral in general. The 49 positive cases, although only a tiny minority, do demonstrate the existence of neutral processes. We realize that the traditional doctrine of microbial biogeography "Everything is everywhere, but the environment selects" first proposed by Baas-Becking resolves the apparent contradiction. The first part of Baas-Becking doctrine states that microbes are not dispersal-limited and therefore are neutral prone, and the second part reiterates that the freely dispersed microbes must endure selection by the environment. Therefore, in most cases, it is the host environment that ultimately shapes the community assembly and tip the human microbiome to niche regime.
Project description:The human microbiome consists of five major regional biomes distributed in or on our five body sites including skin, oral, lung, gut, and reproductive tract. Its biogeography (the spatial and temporal distribution of its biodiversity) has far-reaching implications to our health and diseases. Nevertheless, we currently have very limited understanding on the <i>mechanisms</i> shaping the biogeography, since it is often rather difficult to determine the relative importance of drift, dispersal, speciation, and selection, the four processes (mechanisms) determining the patterns of microbial biogeography and community dynamics according to a recent synthesis in community ecology and biogeography. To disentangle these mechanisms, I utilize multisite neutral (MSN) model and niche-neutral hybrid (NNH) model to analyze large number of truly multisite microbiome samples covering all five major human microbiome habitats, including 699 metacommunities and 5,420 local communities. Approximately 89% of metacommunities and 92% local communities exhibit patterns indistinguishable from neutral, and 20% indistinguishable from niche-neutral hybrid model, indicating the relative significance of stochastic neutral forces versus deterministic niche selection in shaping the biogeography of human microbiome. These findings cast supporting evidence to van der Gast's revision to classic Bass-Becking doctrine of microbial biogeography: "<i>Some things are everywhere and some things are not. Sometimes the environment selects and sometimes it doesn't,</i>" offering the first educated guess for "<i>some</i>" and "<i>sometimes</i>" in the revised doctrine. Furthermore, the logistic/Cox regression models describing the relationships among community neutrality, niche differentiation, and key community/species characteristics (including community diversity, community/species dominance, speciation, and migration rates) were constructed to quantitatively describe the niche-neutral continuum and the influences of community/species properties on the continuum.
Project description:Arbuscular fungi have a major role in directing the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems yet little is known about their biogeographical distribution. The Baas-Becking hypothesis ('everything is everywhere, but, the environment selects') was tested by investigating the distribution of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) at the landscape scale and the influence of environmental factors and geographical distance in determining community composition. AMF communities in Trifolium repens and Lolium perenne roots were assessed in 40 geographically dispersed sites in Ireland representing different land uses and soil types. Field sampling and laboratory bioassays were used, with AMF communities characterised using 18S rRNA terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism. Landscape-scale distribution of AMF was driven by the local environment. AMF community composition was influenced by abiotic variables (pH, rainfall and soil type), but not land use or geographical distance. Trifolium repens and L. perenne supported contrasting communities of AMF, and the communities colonising each plant species were consistent across pasture habitats and over distance. Furthermore, L. perenne AMF communities grouped by soil type within pasture habitats. This is the largest and most comprehensive study that has investigated the landscape-scale distribution of AMF. Our findings support the Baas-Becking hypothesis at the landscape scale and demonstrate the strong influence the local environment has on determining AMF community composition.
Project description:It has been proposed that Antarctic environments select microorganisms with unique biochemical adaptations, based on the tenet 'Everything is everywhere, but, the environment selects' by Baas-Becking. However, this is a hypothesis that has not been extensively evaluated. This study evaluated the fundamental prediction contained in this hypothesis-in the sense that species are structured in the landscape according to their local habitats-, using as study model the phylogenetic diversity of the culturable bacteria of Fildes Peninsula (King George Island, Antarctica). Eighty bacterial strains isolated from 10 different locations in the area, were recovered. Based on phylogenetic analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences, the isolates were grouped into twenty-six phylotypes distributed in three main clades, of which only six are exclusive to Antarctica. Results showed that phylotypes do not group significantly by habitat type; however, local habitat types had phylogenetic signal, which support the phylogenetic niche conservatism hypothesis and not a selective role of the environment like the Baas-Becking hypothesis suggests. We propose that, more than habitat selection resulting in new local adaptations and diversity, local historical colonization and species sorting (i.e. differences in speciation and extinction rates that arise by interaction of species level traits with the environment) play a fundamental role on the culturable bacterial diversity in Antarctica.
Project description:The spatial distribution of microbes on our planet is famously formulated in the Baas Becking hypothesis as "everything is everywhere but the environment selects." While this hypothesis does not strictly rule out patterns caused by geographical effects on ecology and historical founder effects, it does propose that the remarkable dispersal potential of microbes leads to distributions generally shaped by environmental factors rather than geographical distance. By constructing sequence similarity networks from uncultured environmental samples, we show that microbial gene pool distributions are not influenced nearly as much by geography as ecology, thus extending the Bass Becking hypothesis from whole organisms to microbial genes. We find that gene pools are shaped by their broad ecological niche (such as sea water, fresh water, host, and airborne). We find that freshwater habitats act as a gene exchange bridge between otherwise disconnected habitats. Finally, certain antibiotic resistance genes deviate from the general trend of habitat specificity by exhibiting a high degree of cross-habitat mobility. The strong cross-habitat mobility of antibiotic resistance genes is a cause for concern and provides a paradigmatic example of the rate by which genes colonize new habitats when new selective forces emerge.
Project description:Viral communities are important for ecosystem function as they are involved in critical biogeochemical cycles and controlling host abundance. This study investigates riverine viral communities around a small rural town that influences local water inputs. Myoviridae, Siphoviridae, Phycodnaviridae, Mimiviridae, Herpesviridae, and Podoviridae were the most abundant families. Viral species upstream and downstream of the town were similar, with Synechoccocus phage, salinus, Prochlorococcus phage, Mimivirus A, and Human herpes 6A virus most abundant, contributing to 4.9-38.2% of average abundance within the metagenomic profiles, with Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus present in metagenomes as the expected hosts for the phage. Overall, the majority of abundant viral species were or were most similar to those of marine origin. At over 60 km to the river mouth, the presence of marine communities provides some support for the Baas-Becking hypothesis "everything is everywhere, but, the environment selects." We conclude marine microbial species may occur more frequently in freshwater systems than previously assumed, and hence may play important roles in some freshwater ecosystems within tens to a hundred kilometers from the sea.
Project description:Microbial populations can be dispersal limited. However, microorganisms that successfully disperse into physiologically ideal environments are not guaranteed to establish. This observation contradicts the Baas-Becking tenet: 'Everything is everywhere, but the environment selects'. Allee effects, which manifest in the relationship between initial population density and probability of establishment, could explain this observation. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that small populations of Vibrio fischeri are subject to an intrinsic demographic Allee effect. Populations subjected to predation by the bacterivore Cafeteria roenbergensis display both intrinsic and extrinsic demographic Allee effects. The estimated critical threshold required to escape positive density-dependence is around 5, 20 or 90 cells ml(-1)under conditions of high carbon resources, low carbon resources or low carbon resources with predation, respectively. This work builds on the foundations of modern microbial ecology, demonstrating that mechanisms controlling macroorganisms apply to microorganisms, and provides a statistical method to detect Allee effects in data.
Project description:The goal of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) is to generate a comprehensive catalog of human-associated microorganisms including reference genomes representing the most common species. Toward this goal, the HMP has characterized the microbial communities at 18 body habitats in a cohort of over 200 healthy volunteers using 16S rRNA gene (16S) sequencing and has generated nearly 1,000 reference genomes from human-associated microorganisms. To determine how well current reference genome collections capture the diversity observed among the healthy microbiome and to guide isolation and future sequencing of microbiome members, we compared the HMP's 16S data sets to several reference 16S collections to create a 'most wanted' list of taxa for sequencing. Our analysis revealed that the diversity of commonly occurring taxa within the HMP cohort microbiome is relatively modest, few novel taxa are represented by these OTUs and many common taxa among HMP volunteers recur across different populations of healthy humans. Taken together, these results suggest that it should be possible to perform whole-genome sequencing on a large fraction of the human microbiome, including the 'most wanted', and that these sequences should serve to support microbiome studies across multiple cohorts. Also, in stark contrast to other taxa, the 'most wanted' organisms are poorly represented among culture collections suggesting that novel culture- and single-cell-based methods will be required to isolate these organisms for sequencing.
Project description:The NIH Human Microbiome Project (HMP) has been carried out over ten years and two phases to provide resources, methods, and discoveries that link interactions between humans and their microbiomes to health-related outcomes. The recently completed second phase, the Integrative Human Microbiome Project, comprised studies of dynamic changes in the microbiome and host under three conditions: pregnancy and preterm birth; inflammatory bowel diseases; and stressors that affect individuals with prediabetes. The associated research begins to elucidate mechanisms of host-microbiome interactions under these conditions, provides unique data resources (at the HMP Data Coordination Center), and represents a paradigm for future multi-omic studies of the human microbiome.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Environments and their organic content are generally not static and isolated, but in a constant state of exchange and interaction with each other. Through physical or biological processes, organisms, especially microbes, may be transferred between environments whose characteristics may be quite different. The transferred microbes may not survive in their new environment, but their DNA will be deposited. In this study, we compare two environmental sequencing projects to find molecular evidence of transfer of microbes over vast geographical distances. METHODOLOGY: By studying synonymous nucleotide composition, oligomer frequency and orthology between predicted genes in metagenomics data from two environments, terrestrial and aquatic, and by correlating with phylogenetic mappings, we find that both environments are likely to contain trace amounts of microbes which have been far removed from their original habitat. We also suggest a bias in direction from soil to sea, which is consistent with the cycles of planetary wind and water. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the Baas-Becking hypothesis formulated in 1934, which states that due to dispersion and population sizes, microbes are likely to be found in widely disparate environments. Furthermore, the availability of genetic material from distant environments is a possible font of novel gene functions for lateral gene transfer.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Although our microbial community and genomes (the human microbiome) outnumber our genome by several orders of magnitude, to what extent the human host genetic complement informs the microbiota composition is not clear. The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) Consortium established a unique population-scale framework with which to characterize the relationship of microbial community structure with their human hosts. A wide variety of taxa and metabolic pathways have been shown to be differentially distributed by virtue of race/ethnicity in the HMP. Given that mtDNA haplogroups are the maternally derived ancestral genomic markers and mitochondria's role as the generator for cellular ATP, characterizing the relationship between human mtDNA genomic variants and microbiome profiles becomes of potential marked biologic and clinical interest. RESULTS:We leveraged sequencing data from the HMP to investigate the association between microbiome community structures with its own host mtDNA variants. 15 haplogroups and 631 mtDNA nucleotide polymorphisms (mean sequencing depth of 280X on the mitochondria genome) from 89 individuals participating in the HMP were accurately identified. 16S rRNA (V3-V5 region) sequencing generated microbiome taxonomy profiles and whole genome shotgun sequencing generated metabolic profiles from various body sites were treated as traits to conduct association analysis between haplogroups and host clinical metadata through linear regression. The mtSNPs of individuals with European haplogroups were associated with microbiome profiles using PLINK quantitative trait associations with permutation and adjusted for multiple comparisons. We observe that among 139 stool and 59 vaginal posterior fornix samples, several haplogroups show significant association with specific microbiota (q-value < 0.05) as well as their aggregate community structure (Chi-square with Monte Carlo, p < 0.005), which confirmed and expanded previous research on the association of race and ethnicity with microbiome profile. Our results further indicate that mtDNA variations may render different microbiome profiles, possibly through an inflammatory response to different levels of reactive oxygen species activity. CONCLUSIONS:These data provide initial evidence for the association between host ancestral genome with the structure of its microbiome.