Population Genomics of Host-microbiome Interactions

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 - 1:25pm - 2:25pm
Lind 305
Ran Blekhman (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities)
The composition of the microbial communities that colonize the human body varies widely across individuals and populations, and has been associated with numerous host traits and diseases. Although the microbiome is influenced by environmental factors, a strong host genetic factor is also expected to control the interaction between humans and the microbiome. Understanding the relative role of genetic and environmental factors in host-microbiome interactions is a central goal in human disease research. In my talk, I describe research in my lab, which is based on the hypothesis that the microbiome can be considered a quantitative trait, and thus we can directly map host genomic factors controlling the variation in the microbiome, as well as identify individual host genes and pathways that are regulated by the microbiome. I will describe our effort to create a systems-level view of the molecular interactions between host genes and microbial taxa, genes, and pathways in the gut; a characterization of how microbiome dynamics and taxa are controlled by host genetic variation; and a description of the mechanism with which the microbes regulate host genes. These results shed light on the interplay between human genomics and the microbiome, explain how this interaction affects disease, and would enable development of microbiome-based therapeutics and diagnostics that improve human health.