Organismal, genetic, and transcriptional variation in the deeply sequenced gut microbiomes of identical twins

Peter J. Turnbaugh, Christopher Quince, Jeremiah J. Faith, Alice C. McHardy, Tanya Yatsunenko, Faheem Niazi, Jason Affourtit, Michael Egholm, Bernard Henrissat, Rob Knight, Jeffrey I. Gordon

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374 Citations (Scopus)


We deeply sampled the organismal, genetic, and transcriptional diversity in fecal samples collected from a monozygotic (MZ) twin pair and compared the results to 1,095 communities from the gut and other body habitats of related and unrelated individuals. Using a new scheme for noise reduction in pyrosequencing data, we estimated the total diversity of species-level bacterial phylotypes in the 1.2-1.5 million bacterial 16S rRNA reads obtained from each deeply sampled cotwin to be ∼800 (35.9%, 49.1% detected in both). A combined 1.1 million read 16S rRNA dataset representing 281 shallowly sequenced fecal samples from 54 twin pairs and their mothers contained an estimated 4,018 species-level phylotypes, with each sample having a unique species assemblage (53.4 ± 0.6% and 50.3 ± 0.5% overlap with the deeply sampled cotwins). Of the 134 phylotypes with a relative abundance of >0.1% in the combined dataset, only 37 appeared in >50% of the samples, with one phylotype in the Lachnospiraceae family present in 99%. Nongut communities had significantly reduced overlap with the deeply sequenced twins' fecal microbiota (18.3 ± 0.3%, 15.3 ± 0.3%). The MZ cotwins' fecal DNA was deeply sequenced (3.8-6.3 Gbp/sample) and assembled reads were assigned to 25 genus-level phylogenetic bins. Only 17% of the genes in these bins were shared between the cotwins. Bins exhibited differences in their degree of sequence variation, gene content including the repertoire of carbohydrate active enzymes present within and between twins (e.g., predicted cellulases, dockerins), and transcriptional activities. These results provide an expanded perspective about features that make each of us unique life forms and directions for future characterization of our gut ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7503-7508
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2010


  • Carbohydrate active enzymes
  • Microbial phylogenetic analyses
  • Microbiota
  • Transcriptomics

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