Analysis of 1321 Eubacterium rectale genomes from metagenomes uncovers complex phylogeographic population structure and subspecies functional adaptations

Nicolai Karcher, Edoardo Pasolli, Francesco Asnicar, Kun D. Huang, Adrian Tett, Serena Manara, Federica Armanini, Debbie Bain, Sylvia H. Duncan, Petra Louis, Moreno Zolfo, Paolo Manghi, Mireia Valles-Colomer, Roberta Raffaetà, Omar Rota-Stabelli, Maria Carmen Collado, Georg Zeller, Daniel Falush, Frank Maixner, Alan W. WalkerCurtis Huttenhower, Nicola Segata*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Eubacterium rectale is one of the most prevalent human gut bacteria, but its diversity and population genetics are not well understood because large-scale whole-genome investigations of this microbe have not been carried out.

Here, we leverage metagenomic assembly followed by a reference-based binning strategy to screen over 6500 gut metagenomes spanning geography and lifestyle and reconstruct over 1300 E. rectale high-quality genomes from metagenomes. We extend previous results of biogeographic stratification, identifying a new subspecies predominantly found in African individuals and showing that closely related non-human primates do not harbor E. rectale. Comparison of pairwise genetic and geographic distances between subspecies suggests that isolation by distance and co-dispersal with human populations might have contributed to shaping the contemporary population structure of E. rectale. We confirm that a relatively recently diverged E. rectale subspecies specific to Europe consistently lacks motility operons and that it is immotile in vitro, probably due to ancestral genetic loss. The same subspecies exhibits expansion of its carbohydrate metabolism gene repertoire including the acquisition of a genomic island strongly enriched in glycosyltransferase genes involved in exopolysaccharide synthesis.

Our study provides new insights into the population structure and ecology of E. rectale and shows that shotgun metagenomes can enable population genomics studies of microbiota members at a resolution and scale previously attainable only by extensive isolate sequencing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number138
Number of pages27
JournalGenome Biology
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2020


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