Excited and grateful to share our inaugural article, led by Global Microbiome Conservancy cofounders Mathieu Groussin, PhD & Mathilde Poyet, PhD, resulting from the first phase of our microbiome conservation efforts! Out today in Cell Journal.
Industrialization has impacted the human gut ecosystem, resulting in altered microbiome composition and diversity. Whether bacterial genomes may also adapt to the industrialization of their host populations remains largely unexplored. Here, we investigate the extent to which the rates and targets of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) vary across thousands of bacterial strains from 15 human populations spanning a range of industrialization. We show that HGTs have accumulated in the microbiome over recent host generations and that HGT occurs at high frequency within individuals. Comparison across human populations reveals that industrialized lifestyles are associated with higher HGT rates and that the functions of HGTs are related to the level of host industrialization. Our results suggest that gut bacteria continuously acquire new functionality based on host lifestyle and that high rates of HGT may be a recent development in human history linked to industrialization.