August 31, 2011 – The digestive system is home to a myriad of viruses, but how they are involved in health and disease is poorly understood. In a study published online today in Genome Research (www.genome.org), researchers have investigated the dynamics of virus populations in the human gut, shedding new light on the gut "virome" and how it differs between people and responds to changes in diet.
"Our bodies are like coral reefs," said Dr. Frederic Bushman of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, senior author of the study, "inhabited by many diverse creatures interacting with each other and with us." The interactions between viruses, bacteria, and the human host likely have significant consequences for human health and disease, especially in the delicate ecosystem of the gut microbiome.
In this work, lead author Sam Minot, Bushman, and colleagues investigated the dynamics of the gut virome during perturbations to diet. The group studied six healthy volunteers—some received a high fat and low fiber diet, others a low fat and high fiber diet, and one an ad-lib diet.
By analyzing DNA sequences from viruses and bacteria present in stool of the volunteers over the course of eight days, they found that although the largest variation in virus diversity observed occurred between individuals, over time dietary intervention significantly changed the proportions of virus populations in individuals on the same diet, so that the viral populations became more similar.
"The study provides a new window on the vast viral populations that live in the human gut, demonstrates that they vary radically between individuals, and shows that dietary changes can affect not just bacterial populations but also viral populations," Bushman said.
Scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA) contributed to this study.
This work was supported by the Human Microbiome Roadmap Demonstration Project, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the National Institutes of Health, and the Molecular Biology Core of The Center for Molecular Studies in Digestive and Liver Diseases.
The authors are available for more information by contacting:
Karen Kreeger, Senior Science Communications Manager, Department of Communications, Penn Medicine (+1-215-459-0544; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Interested reporters may obtain copies of the manuscript from Peggy Calicchia, Administrative Assistant, Genome Research (email@example.com; +1-516-422-4012).
About the article:
The manuscript will be published online ahead of print on Wednesday, August 31, 2011. Its full citation is as follows:
Minot S, Sinha R, Chen J, Li H, Keilbaugh SA, Wu G, Lewis J, Bushman FD. The human gut virome: Inter-individual variation and dynamic response to diet. Genome Res
About Genome Research:
Launched in 1995, Genome Research (www.genome.org) is an international, continuously published, peer-reviewed journal that focuses on research that provides novel insights into the genome biology of all organisms, including advances in genomic medicine. Among the topics considered by the journal are genome structure and function, comparative genomics, molecular evolution, genome-scale quantitative and population genetics, proteomics, epigenomics, and systems biology. The journal also features exciting gene discoveries and reports of cutting-edge computational biology and high-throughput methodologies.
About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is a private, nonprofit institution in New York that conducts research in cancer and other life sciences and has a variety of educational programs. Its Press, originating in 1933, is the largest of the Laboratory's five education divisions and is a publisher of books, journals, and electronic media for scientists, students, and the general public.
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