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My microbes
Date:12/6/2012

We all have E.coli bacteria in our gut but each of us carries a version that is genetically slightly different. The same can be said of most gut microbes: our own gut metagenome, that is the sum of all the genomes of all our gut microbes, appears to be really specific to each of us, and to remain stable over time. For the first time, researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) have studied this metagenome at such a high resolution that individual mutations in the various strains could be analysed. Their findings, published today in Nature, could have widespread consequences in medicine: gut microbes are known to be essential for functions as vital as digesting food or providing vitamins, but can also be involved in diseases if they carry certain mutations.

The scientists analysed the gut metagenome of 207 individuals from Europe and the USA, matching more than 7 billion pieces of DNA (of 100 lettres each) to the genomes of our most abundant gut microbial species. "This large scale analysis showed that, at least when healthy, we carry a unique set of bacterial strains and their mutations in our gut, over a long time," explains Peer Bork who led the study at EMBL. "It is like a second genetic signature, but one that probably does not come from our parents but that we acquire from the environment in early childhood."

When comparing the specific mutations from the same individual over time, the researchers found that the metagenome remains stable for at least one year, and probably much longer when the individuals are healthy. Results also show that there is only little geographic difference when comparing metagenomes of European with North-American individuals. This indicates that gradual adaptation is possible.

For each individual, approximately 6 billion DNA letters of their gut metagenome have been analysed, many more than the 3.3 billion DNA letters of human DNA that we inherit from each of our pa
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Contact: Isabelle Kling
isabelle.kling@embl.de
49-622-138-78355
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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