Genetic effects on the commensal microbiota in inflammatory bowel disease patients

PLoS Genet. 2019 Mar 8;15(3):e1008018. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008018. eCollection 2019 Mar.


Several bacteria in the gut microbiota have been shown to be associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and dozens of IBD genetic variants have been identified in genome-wide association studies. However, the role of the microbiota in the etiology of IBD in terms of host genetic susceptibility remains unclear. Here, we studied the association between four major genetic variants associated with an increased risk of IBD and bacterial taxa in up to 633 IBD cases. We performed systematic screening for associations, identifying and replicating associations between NOD2 variants and two taxa: the Roseburia genus and the Faecalibacterium prausnitzii species. By exploring the overall association patterns between genes and bacteria, we found that IBD risk alleles were significantly enriched for associations concordant with bacteria-IBD associations. To understand the significance of this pattern in terms of the study design and known effects from the literature, we used counterfactual principles to assess the fitness of a few parsimonious gene-bacteria-IBD causal models. Our analyses showed evidence that the disease risk of these genetic variants were likely to be partially mediated by the microbiome. We confirmed these results in extensive simulation studies and sensitivity analyses using the association between NOD2 and F. prausnitzii as a case study.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • CARD Signaling Adaptor Proteins / genetics
  • Clostridiales / genetics
  • Clostridiales / isolation & purification
  • Clostridiales / pathogenicity
  • Faecalibacterium prausnitzii / genetics
  • Faecalibacterium prausnitzii / isolation & purification
  • Faecalibacterium prausnitzii / pathogenicity
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / genetics*
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Variation
  • Host Microbial Interactions / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / etiology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / genetics*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Genetic
  • Nod2 Signaling Adaptor Protein / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide


  • CARD Signaling Adaptor Proteins
  • CARD9 protein, human
  • NOD2 protein, human
  • Nod2 Signaling Adaptor Protein