Science News
from research organizations

Resource availability drives person-to-person variations in microbes living in the body

Ecological model reveals relationships between resource availability and microbe species abundance

Date:
April 27, 2017
Source:
PLOS
Summary:
The collection of microbial species found in the human body varies from person to person, and new research suggests that a significant part of this variation can be explained by variability in shared resources available to the microbes.
Share:
FULL STORY

Every human is home to a collection of thousands of diverse species of microbes known as the microbiota. Ecological processes, such as competition for resources, help determine each person's unique collection of species.
Credit: © Maksim Šmeljov / Fotolia

The collection of microbial species found in the human body varies from person to person, and new research published in PLOS Computational Biology suggests that a significant part of this variation can be explained by variability in shared resources available to the microbes.

Every human is home to a collection of thousands of diverse species of microbes known as the microbiota. Ecological processes, such as competition for resources, help determine each person's unique collection of species. In the new study, Charles Fisher and colleagues at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris investigate how the availability of resources in the human body impacts the microbiota.

The scientists developed a mathematical model that describes the relationship between the abundance of different microbiota species and the availability of the resources they use. The model is based on the ecological idea that populations of two species that rely on the same resources tend to grow and decline in unison.

The researchers used the model along with new statistical analysis methods to reanalyze data from the Human Microbiome Project, which used data from hundreds of people to identify microbial species that live in or on different parts of the human body. This analysis confirmed that variations in resources available in different body sites can explain the relative abundance of different species in those sites.

The analysis also showed similar results between humans. Within a single body site, person-to-person variations in the availability of shared resources can explain much of the variation in the abundance of different microbial species between people.

Additionally, the analysis revealed that species that share common resources tend to be closely related taxonomically. While most previous studies of the human microbiota have focused on direct interactions between pairs of microbial species, these new findings suggest that the correlation between the relative abundance of two species depends on how closely they are related.

This study focused on the microbiota of healthy humans, but future studies could explore the role of resource availability in disease. "The methods we developed in this paper will enable scientists to examine the role of shared resources in diseases related to the microbiota, such as Crohn's disease," Fisher says. "Potentially, one could use these results to develop strategies for treating dysbiosis."


Story Source:

Materials provided by PLOS. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Charles K. Fisher, Thierry Mora, Aleksandra M. Walczak. Variable habitat conditions drive species covariation in the human microbiota. PLOS Computational Biology, 2017; 13 (4): e1005435 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005435

Cite This Page:

PLOS. "Resource availability drives person-to-person variations in microbes living in the body: Ecological model reveals relationships between resource availability and microbe species abundance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 April 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170427141754.htm>.
PLOS. (2017, April 27). Resource availability drives person-to-person variations in microbes living in the body: Ecological model reveals relationships between resource availability and microbe species abundance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170427141754.htm
PLOS. "Resource availability drives person-to-person variations in microbes living in the body: Ecological model reveals relationships between resource availability and microbe species abundance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170427141754.htm (accessed May 24, 2017).

RELATED STORIES