Culture of previously uncultured members of the human gut microbiota by culturomics

Nat Microbiol. 2016 Nov 7;1:16203. doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.203.


Metagenomics revolutionized the understanding of the relations among the human microbiome, health and diseases, but generated a countless number of sequences that have not been assigned to a known microorganism1. The pure culture of prokaryotes, neglected in recent decades, remains essential to elucidating the role of these organisms2. We recently introduced microbial culturomics, a culturing approach that uses multiple culture conditions and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight and 16S rRNA for identification2. Here, we have selected the best culture conditions to increase the number of studied samples and have applied new protocols (fresh-sample inoculation; detection of microcolonies and specific cultures of Proteobacteria and microaerophilic and halophilic prokaryotes) to address the weaknesses of the previous studies3-5. We identified 1,057 prokaryotic species, thereby adding 531 species to the human gut repertoire: 146 bacteria known in humans but not in the gut, 187 bacteria and 1 archaea not previously isolated in humans, and 197 potentially new species. Genome sequencing was performed on the new species. By comparing the results of the metagenomic and culturomic analyses, we show that the use of culturomics allows the culture of organisms corresponding to sequences previously not assigned. Altogether, culturomics doubles the number of species isolated at least once from the human gut.

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / classification
  • Archaea / genetics
  • Archaea / growth & development*
  • Archaea / isolation & purification*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Archaeal / chemistry
  • DNA, Archaeal / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal / chemistry
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Microbiological Techniques / methods*
  • Microbiota
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods


  • DNA, Archaeal
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S