CRISPR targeting reveals a reservoir of common phages associated with the human gut microbiome

A. Stern, E. Mick, I. Tirosh, O. Sagy, R. Sorek
2012 Genome Research  
The bacterial community in the human gut has crucial health roles both in metabolic functions and in protection against pathogens. Phages, which are known to significantly affect microbial community composition in many ecological niches, have the potential to impact the gut microbiota, yet thorough characterization of this relationship remains elusive. We have reconstructed the content of the CRISPR bacterial immune system in the human gut microbiomes of 124 European individuals and used it to
more » ... dentify a catalog of 991 phages targeted by CRISPR across all individuals. Our results show that 78% of these phages are shared among two or more individuals. Moreover, a significant fraction of phages found in our study are shown to exist in fecal samples previously derived from American and Japanese individuals, identifying a common reservoir of phages frequently associated with the human gut microbiome. We further inferred the bacterial hosts for more than 130 such phages, enabling a detailed analysis of phage-bacteria interactions across the 124 individuals by correlating patterns of phage abundance with bacterial abundance and resistance. A subset of phages demonstrated preferred association with host genomes as lysogenized prophages, with highly increased abundance in specific individuals. Overall, our results imply that phage-bacterial attack-resistance interactions occur within the human gut microbiome, possibly affecting microbiota composition and human health. Our finding of global sharing of gut phages is surprising in light of the extreme genetic diversity of phages found in other ecological niches.
doi:10.1101/gr.138297.112 pmid:22732228 pmcid:PMC3460193 fatcat:ewzlvl2ihrb67da32fjhnn62k4