Individuality and ethnicity eclipse a short-term dietary intervention in shaping microbiomes and viromes

Junhui Li, Robert H.George Markowitz, Andrew W. Brooks, Elizabeth K. Mallott, Brittany A. Leigh, Timothy Olszewski, Hamid Zare, Minoo Bagheri, Holly M. Smith, Katie A. Friese, Ismail Habibi, William M. Lawrence, Charlie L. Rost, Ákos Lédeczi, Angela M. Eeds, Jane F. Ferguson, Heidi J. Silver, Seth R. Bordenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Many diseases linked with ethnic health disparities associate with changes in microbial communities in the United States, but the causes and persistence of ethnicity-associated microbiome variation are not understood. For instance, microbiome studies that strictly control for diet across ethnically diverse populations are lacking. Here, we performed multiomic profiling over a 9-day period that included a 4-day controlled vegetarian diet intervention in a defined geographic location across 36 healthy Black and White females of similar age, weight, habitual diets, and health status. We demonstrate that individuality and ethnicity account for roughly 70% to 88% and 2% to 10% of taxonomic variation, respectively, eclipsing the effects a short-term diet intervention in shaping gut and oral microbiomes and gut viromes. Persistent variation between ethnicities occurs for microbial and viral taxa and various metagenomic functions, including several gut KEGG orthologs, oral carbohydrate active enzyme categories, cluster of orthologous groups of proteins, and antibiotic-resistant gene categories. In contrast to the gut and oral microbiome data, the urine and plasma metabolites tend to decouple from ethnicity and more strongly associate with diet. These longitudinal, multiomic profiles paired with a dietary intervention illuminate previously unrecognized associations of ethnicity with metagenomic and viromic features across body sites and cohorts within a single geographic location, highlighting the importance of accounting for human microbiome variation in research, health determinants, and eventual therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere3001758
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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