The composition of the human gut microbiome is influenced by many environmental factors. Diet is thought to be one of the most important determinants, though we have limited understanding of the extent to which dietary fluctuations alter variation in the gut microbiome between individuals. In this study, we examined variation in gut microbiome composition between winter and summer over the course of one year in 60 members of a founder population, the Hutterites. Because of their communal lifestyle, Hutterite diets are similar across individuals and remarkably stable throughout the year, with the exception that fresh produce is primarily served during the summer and autumn months. Our data indicate that despite overall gut microbiome stability within individuals over time, there are consistent and significant population-wide shifts in microbiome composition across seasons. We found seasonal differences in both (i) the abundance of particular taxa (false discovery rate <0.05), including highly abundant phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, and (ii) overall gut microbiome diversity (by Shannon diversity; P = 0.001). It is likely that the dietary fluctuations between seasons with respect to produce availability explain, at least in part, these differences in microbiome composition. For example, high levels of produce containing complex carbohydrates consumed during the summer months might explain increased abundance of Bacteroidetes, which contain complex carbohydrate digesters, and decreased levels of Actinobacteria, which have been negatively correlated to fiber content in food questionnaires. Our observations demonstrate the plastic nature of the human gut microbiome in response to variation in diet.
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