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All Publications

  • Variation in the Microbiota of Ixodes Ticks with Regard to Geography, Species, and Sex. Applied and environmental microbiology Van Treuren, W., Ponnusamy, L., Brinkerhoff, R. J., Gonzalez, A., Parobek, C. M., Juliano, J. J., Andreadis, T. G., Falco, R. C., Ziegler, L. B., Hathaway, N., Keeler, C., Emch, M., Bailey, J. A., Roe, R. M., Apperson, C. S., Knight, R., Meshnick, S. R. 2015; 81 (18): 6200-6209


    Ixodes scapularis is the principal vector of Lyme disease on the East Coast and in the upper Midwest regions of the United States, yet the tick is also present in the Southeast, where Lyme disease is absent or rare. A closely related species, I. affinis, also carries the pathogen in the South but does not seem to transmit it to humans. In order to better understand the geographic diversity of the tick, we analyzed the microbiota of 104 adult I. scapularis and 13 adult I. affinis ticks captured in 19 locations in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut, and New York. Initially, ticks from 4 sites were analyzed by 454 pyrosequencing. Subsequently, ticks from these sites plus 15 others were analyzed by sequencing with an Illumina MiSeq machine. By both analyses, the microbiomes of female ticks were significantly less diverse than those of male ticks. The dissimilarity between tick microbiomes increased with distance between sites, and the state in which a tick was collected could be inferred from its microbiota. The genus Rickettsia was prominent in all locations. Borrelia was also present in most locations and was present at especially high levels in one site in western Virginia. In contrast, members of the family Enterobacteriaceae were very common in North Carolina I. scapularis ticks but uncommon in I. scapularis ticks from other sites and in North Carolina I. affinis ticks. These data suggest substantial variations in the Ixodes microbiota in association with geography, species, and sex.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/AEM.01562-15

    View details for PubMedID 26150449

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4542252

  • Analysis of composition of microbiomes: a novel method for studying microbial composition. Microbial ecology in health and disease Mandal, S., Van Treuren, W., White, R. A., Eggesbř, M., Knight, R., Peddada, S. D. 2015; 26: 27663-?


    Understanding the factors regulating our microbiota is important but requires appropriate statistical methodology. When comparing two or more populations most existing approaches either discount the underlying compositional structure in the microbiome data or use probability models such as the multinomial and Dirichlet-multinomial distributions, which may impose a correlation structure not suitable for microbiome data.To develop a methodology that accounts for compositional constraints to reduce false discoveries in detecting differentially abundant taxa at an ecosystem level, while maintaining high statistical power.We introduced a novel statistical framework called analysis of composition of microbiomes (ANCOM). ANCOM accounts for the underlying structure in the data and can be used for comparing the composition of microbiomes in two or more populations. ANCOM makes no distributional assumptions and can be implemented in a linear model framework to adjust for covariates as well as model longitudinal data. ANCOM also scales well to compare samples involving thousands of taxa.We compared the performance of ANCOM to the standard t-test and a recently published methodology called Zero Inflated Gaussian (ZIG) methodology (1) for drawing inferences on the mean taxa abundance in two or more populations. ANCOM controlled the false discovery rate (FDR) at the desired nominal level while also improving power, whereas the t-test and ZIG had inflated FDRs, in some instances as high as 68% for the t-test and 60% for ZIG. We illustrate the performance of ANCOM using two publicly available microbial datasets in the human gut, demonstrating its general applicability to testing hypotheses about compositional differences in microbial communities.Accounting for compositionality using log-ratio analysis results in significantly improved inference in microbiota survey data.

    View details for DOI 10.3402/mehd.v26.27663

    View details for PubMedID 26028277

  • Exercise is More Effective at Altering Gut Microbial Composition and Producing Stable Changes in Lean Mass in Juvenile versus Adult Male F344 Rats. PloS one Mika, A., Van Treuren, W., González, A., Herrera, J. J., Knight, R., Fleshner, M. 2015; 10 (5)


    The mammalian intestine harbors a complex microbial ecosystem that influences many aspects of host physiology. Exposure to specific microbes early in development affects host metabolism, immune function, and behavior across the lifespan. Just as the physiology of the developing organism undergoes a period of plasticity, the developing microbial ecosystem is characterized by instability and may also be more sensitive to change. Early life thus presents a window of opportunity for manipulations that produce adaptive changes in microbial composition. Recent insights have revealed that increasing physical activity can increase the abundance of beneficial microbial species. We therefore investigated whether six weeks of wheel running initiated in the juvenile period (postnatal day 24) would produce more robust and stable changes in microbial communities versus exercise initiated in adulthood (postnatal day 70) in male F344 rats. 16S rRNA gene sequencing was used to characterize the microbial composition of juvenile versus adult runners and their sedentary counterparts across multiple time points during exercise and following exercise cessation. Alpha diversity measures revealed that the microbial communities of young runners were less even and diverse, a community structure that reflects volatility and malleability. Juvenile onset exercise altered several phyla and, notably, increased Bacteroidetes and decreased Firmicutes, a configuration associated with leanness. At the genus level of taxonomy, exercise altered more genera in juveniles than in the adults and produced patterns associated with adaptive metabolic consequences. Given the potential of these changes to contribute to a lean phenotype, we examined body composition in juvenile versus adult runners. Interestingly, exercise produced persistent increases in lean body mass in juvenile but not adult runners. Taken together, these results indicate that the impact of exercise on gut microbiota composition as well as body composition may depend on the developmental stage during which exercise is initiated.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0125889

    View details for PubMedID 26016739

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4446322

  • Bacteria from Diverse Habitats Colonize and Compete in the Mouse Gut CELL Seedorf, H., Griffin, N. W., Ridaura, V. K., Reyes, A., Cheng, J., Rey, F. E., Smith, M. I., Simon, G. M., Scheffrahn, R. H., Woebken, D., Spormann, A. M., Van Treuren, W., Ursell, L. K., Pirrung, M., Robbins-Pianka, A., Cantarel, B. L., Lombard, V., Henrissat, B., Knight, R., Gordon, J. I. 2014; 159 (2): 253-266


    To study how microbes establish themselves in a mammalian gut environment, we colonized germ-free mice with microbial communities from human, zebrafish, and termite guts, human skin and tongue, soil, and estuarine microbial mats. Bacteria from these foreign environments colonized and persisted in the mouse gut; their capacity to metabolize dietary and host carbohydrates and bile acids correlated with colonization success. Cohousing mice harboring these xenomicrobiota or a mouse cecal microbiota, along with germ-free "bystanders," revealed the success of particular bacterial taxa in invading guts with established communities and empty gut habitats. Unanticipated patterns of ecological succession were observed; for example, a soil-derived bacterium dominated even in the presence of bacteria from other gut communities (zebrafish and termite), and human-derived bacteria colonized germ-free bystander mice before mouse-derived organisms. This approach can be generalized to address a variety of mechanistic questions about succession, including succession in the context of microbiota-directed therapeutics.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2014.09.008

    View details for Web of Science ID 000343095600009

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4194163

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