Biological Aging and the Human Gut Microbiota

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2017 Oct 12;72(11):1474-1482. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glx042.


The human gastrointestinal microbiota plays a key homeostatic role in normal functioning of physiologic processes commonly undermined by aging. We used a previously validated 34-item frailty index (FI34) to identify changes in gut microbiota community structure associated with biological age of community-dwelling adults. Stool 16S rRNA cDNA libraries from 85 subjects ranging in age (43-79) and FI34 score (0-0.365) were deep sequenced, denoised, and clustered using DADA2. Subject biological age but not chronological age correlated with a decrease in stool microbial diversity. Specific microbial genera were differentially abundant in the lower, middle, and upper 33rd percentiles of biological age. Using Sparse Inverse Covariance Estimation for Ecological Association and Statistical Inference (SPIEC-EASI) and Weighted Gene Co-Expression Network Analysis (WGCNA), we identified modules of coabundant microbial genera that distinguished biological from chronological aging. A biological age-associated module composed of Eggerthella, Ruminococcus, and Coprobacillus genera was robust to correction for subject age, sex, body mass index, antibiotic usage, and other confounders. Subject FI34 score positively correlated with the abundance of this module, which exhibited a distinct inferred metagenome as predicted by Phylogenetic Investigation of Communities by Reconstruction of Unobserved States (PICRUSt). We conclude that increasing biological age in community-dwelling adults is associated with gastrointestinal dysbiosis.

Keywords: Coabundance; Diversity; Dysbiosis; Frailty.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metagenomics / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S