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Microbiota modulation through horizontal gene transfer.

Project description

Microbiota and horizontal gene transfer

Microbes are connected with the immune system, and altering gut microbiota (GM) composition and function might improve health. Changing species representation through dietary or lifestyle modifications may be difficult because of the small effects of the factors influencing GM composition. The host selection and competition of resident microbes limit the strain engraftment necessary for the effect of fecal transfers and probiotic cocktails. The goal of the EU-funded MiMoZa project is to determine the horizontal gene transfer (HGT) rates of specific functions within the gut microbiome. Researchers aim to determine the HGT rates within the animal gut under natural and HGT-enhancing conditions. They plan to develop methods to examine HGT in metagenomic datasets and determine the relative importance of the factors influencing HGT.

Objective

My goal is to determine horizontal gene transfer (HGT) rates of specific functions within the gut microbiome. The microbes on and within our bodies, especially within our gastro-intestinal tract, are intimately connected with our immune system and promote health in myriad ways. Altering our gut microbiota (GM) composition and/or function might thus improve health. My research in the Jeroen Raes lab led to the realization that changing species abundances through dietary or lifestyle modulation may be difficult because of the small effect sizes of the factors influencing GM composition (e.g. diet, medication, or transit time). In addition, host-selection and competition of resident microbes, might limit the strain engraftment necessary for the effect of fecal transfers and probiotic cocktails. Despite initial successes (e.g. C. difficile infection treatment), current modulation strategies might therefore be less successful with other conditions. I contacted Ilana Brito, in order to find out whether HGT - a process in which prokaryotes exchange genetic material - may serve as an alternative way to modulate the residing GM. Little is known about the features that affect HGT rates within natural environments nor the role of selection in that process. If these were well-understood, it would allow to assess the possibilities of extending the gut microbiome with additional functions. During my research stay, I will experimentally determine HGT rates within the animal gut under natural and HGT-enhancing conditions. In addition, I will develop methods to examine HGT in metagenomic datasets and determine the relative importance of the factors influencing HGT (selective pressure, host health and DNA delivery method). The knowledge generated through this MSCA-fellowship will stimulate the development of novel GM modulation strategies and will have important implications for human health and agricultural policies (e.g. antibiotic use, spread of transgenes).

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Coordinator

VIB VZW
Net EU contribution
€ 266 425,92
Address
Rijvisschestraat 120
9052 Zwijnaarde - gent
Belgium

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Region
Vlaams Gewest Prov. Oost-Vlaanderen Arr. Gent
Activity type
Research Organisations
Links
Other funding
€ 0,00

Partners (1)