Date of this Version
Nat Microbiol. 2018 March ; 3(3): 347–355. doi:10.1038/s41564-017-0096-0.
Characterizing the stability of the gut microbiome is important to exploit it as a therapeutic target and diagnostic biomarker. We metagenomically and metatranscriptomically sequenced the faecal microbiomes of 308 participants in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Participants provided four stool samples—one pair collected 24–72 h apart and a second pair ~6 months later. Within-person taxonomic and functional variation was consistently lower than between-person variation over time. In contrast, metatranscriptomic profiles were comparably variable within and between subjects due to higher within-subject longitudinal variation. Metagenomic instability accounted for ~74% of corresponding metatranscriptomic instability. The rest was probably attributable to sources such as regulation. Among the pathways that were differentially regulated, most were consistently over- or under-transcribed at each time point. Together, these results suggest that a single measurement of the faecal microbiome can provide long-term information regarding organismal composition and functional potential, but repeated or short-term measures may be necessary for dynamic features identified by metatranscriptomics.