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Evolution of gut-associated microbial communities and its functional relevance in health and disease

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen
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The gut is a highly dynamic microbial ecosystem that controls human health through its collective metabolic activities. Microbial communities form metabolic networks that are essential for dietary breakdown, production of bioactive metabolites and resistance to infections. Bacterial lineages making up these networks evolve rapidly to adapt to the microbial, metabolic and immune environment of the gut. The lack of suitable model systems has limited our current understanding of the relevance of microbial community evolution in the gut and its impact on microbe-host mutualism. EvoGutHealth aims to fill this gap in knowledge by using an innovative, tuneable oligo-microbial model system that allows the study of how a native bacterial consortium evolves in its autochthonous host. Based on our preliminary data, we hypothesize that adaptive evolution shapes synergistic metabolic interactions between individual community members and this eventually affects global microbiome functions such as colonization resistance against pathogens. EvoGutHealth pursues three research goals: First, to identify environmental and host factors that shape the genetic potential of microbial communities in the gut. Second, to uncover how microbial community evolution influences disease-relevant microbiome features and metabolic pathways. Third, to model bacterial metabolic networks and elucidate how they are affected by the genetic alterations of their components. This combined work will fundamentally advance our understanding of the driving forces underlying metabolic network evolution in the mammalian gut. Moreover, it will illuminate how this evolution translates into functional changes. Finally, EvoGutHealth will provide necessary insight to develop strategies to steer microbial communities towards beneficial interactions promoting human health.
Funding Source
European Commission
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