Background: The human gastrointestinal tract is inhabited by a very diverse symbiotic microbiota, the composition of which depends on host genetics and the environment. Several studies suggested that the host genetics may influence the composition of gut microbiota but no genes involved in host control were proposed. We investigated the effects of the wild type and mutated alleles of the gene, which encodes the protein called pyrin, one of the regulators of innate immunity, on the composition of gut commensal bacteria. Mutations in MEFV lead to the autoinflammatory disorder, familial Mediterranean fever (FMF, MIM249100), which is characterized by recurrent self-resolving attacks of fever and polyserositis, with no clinical signs of disease in remission.
Methodology/Principal Findings: A total of 19 FMF patients and eight healthy individuals were genotyped for mutations in the MEFV gene and gut bacterial diversity was assessed by sequencing 16S rRNA gene libraries and FISH analysis. These analyses demonstrated significant changes in bacterial community structure in FMF characterized by depletion of total numbers of bacteria, loss of diversity, and major shifts in bacterial populations within the Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria phyla in attack. In remission with no clinical signs of disease, bacterial diversity values were comparable with control but still, the bacterial composition was substantially deviant from the norm. Discriminant function analyses of gut bacterial diversity revealed highly specific, well-separated and distinct grouping, which depended on the allele carrier status of the host.
Conclusions/Significance: This is the first report that clearly establishes the link between the host genotype and the corresponding shifts in the gut microbiota (the latter confirmed by two independent techniques). It suggests that the host genetics is a key factor in host-microbe interaction determining a specific profile of commensal microbiota in the human gut.