A core human microbiome as viewed through 16S rRNA sequence clusters.

PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e34242. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034242. Epub 2012 Jun 13.


We explore the microbiota of 18 body sites in over 200 individuals using sequences amplified V1-V3 and the V3-V5 small subunit ribosomal RNA (16S) hypervariable regions as part of the NIH Common Fund Human Microbiome Project. The body sites with the greatest number of core OTUs, defined as OTUs shared amongst 95% or more of the individuals, were the oral sites (saliva, tongue, cheek, gums, and throat) followed by the nose, stool, and skin, while the vaginal sites had the fewest number of OTUs shared across subjects. We found that commonalities between samples based on taxonomy could sometimes belie variability at the sub-genus OTU level. This was particularly apparent in the mouth where a given genus can be present in many different oral sites, but the sub-genus OTUs show very distinct site selection, and in the vaginal sites, which are consistently dominated by the Lactobacillus genus but have distinctly different sub-genus V1-V3 OTU populations across subjects. Different body sites show approximately a ten-fold difference in estimated microbial richness, with stool samples having the highest estimated richness, followed by the mouth, throat and gums, then by the skin, nasal and vaginal sites. Richness as measured by the V1-V3 primers was consistently higher than richness measured by V3-V5. We also show that when such a large cohort is analyzed at the genus level, most subjects fit the stool "enterotype" profile, but other subjects are intermediate, blurring the distinction between the enterotypes. When analyzed at the finer-scale, OTU level, there was little or no segregation into stool enterotypes, but in the vagina distinct biotypes were apparent. Finally, we note that even OTUs present in nearly every subject, or that dominate in some samples, showed orders of magnitude variation in relative abundance emphasizing the highly variable nature across individuals.


Huse SM, Ye Y, Zhou Y, Fodor AA.

Institute Authors