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The role of genetics in gut microbiome and diet

The diversity of the gut microbiome builds up over the first few years of life and, thereafter, is partly shaped by environmental factors such as hygiene, age, lifestyle, disease state, and diet. Thus the formation of microbiome diversity varies across human populations. Such population differences in microbiomes are somewhat driven by diet and lifestyle, but genetic ancestry has been found to be an important factor in microbial diversity. Within a population, genetically encoded differences between humans, such as those that decide food preferences, immunity levels, or gut physiology, impact the variance within the microbiome.

By replicating an association between Bifidobacterium and the lactase (LCT) gene locus, a link between the host gene ALDH1L1 and the bacteria SHA-98, was found. LCT encodes lactase and is the enzyme that hydrolyzes lactose in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Those who struggle to digest the lactose found in milk (Lactase nonpersisters) can often experience lactose intolerance when lactose reaches the large intestine and is fermented. It was found through the genetic association study that lactase nonpersisters harbour higher levels of Bifidobacterium. Based on this evidence, the researchers concluded that there is a link between formate production and blood pressure. There were additional genes detected that are involved in barrier defence and affect the health of the gut. The genus Turicibacter was found to be the second most heritable taxon in the analysis, Turicibacter is associated with inflammation. Further study found that Turicibacter appears to be a pathobiont. The genus Blautia was also found to be heritable and is associated with CD36, a gene involved in fat sensing on the tongue and the promotion of absorption of long-chain fatty acids in the gut. The findings of this study found associations between heritable taxa and genes related to diet. Indicating that metabolism, nutrient-sensing, and immune defence are important drivers of human-microbiome co-evolution (Goodrich et al., 2016)

Edinburgh Genetics offers a range of personalised sequencing options to give you insights into your gut health. Contact us today to find out more about the solutions we can offer you.

Related Links:


Goodrich, J. K., Davenport, E. R., Beaumont, M., Jackson, M. A., Knight, R., Ober, C., ... & Ley, R. E. (2016). Genetic determinants of the gut microbiome in UK twins. Cell host & microbe, 19(5), 731-743.

Goodrich, J. K. davenport E., Beaumont M., Jackson M., Knight R., Ober C., et al.(2016). Genetic determinants of the gut microbiome in UK twins. Cell Host Microbe, 19, 731-743.


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