Genome-wide association studies and heritability analysis reveal the involvement of host genetics in the Japanese gut microbiota

Commun Biol. 2020 Nov 18;3(1):686. doi: 10.1038/s42003-020-01416-z.


Numerous host extrinsic and intrinsic factors affect the gut microbiota composition, but their cumulative effects do not sufficiently explain the variation in the microbiota, suggesting contributions of missing factors. The Japanese population possesses homogeneous genetic features suitable for genome-wide association study (GWAS). Here, we performed GWASs for human gut microbiota using 1068 healthy Japanese adults. To precisely evaluate genetic effects, we corrected for the impacts of numerous host extrinsic and demographic factors by introducing them as covariates, enabling us to discover five loci significantly associated with microbiome diversity measures: HS3ST4, C2CD2, 2p16.1, 10p15.1, and 18q12.2. Nevertheless, these five variants explain only a small fraction of the variation in the gut microbiota. We subsequently investigated the heritability of each of the 21 core genera and found that the abundances of six genera are heritable. We propose that the gut microbiota composition is affected by a highly polygenic architecture rather than several strongly associated variants in the Japanese population.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asian People / genetics*
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide