Genome-wide association study in 8,956 German individuals identifies influence of ABO histo-blood groups on gut microbiome

Nat Genet. 2021 Feb;53(2):147-155. doi: 10.1038/s41588-020-00747-1. Epub 2021 Jan 18.


The intestinal microbiome is implicated as an important modulating factor in multiple inflammatory1,2, neurologic3 and neoplastic diseases4. Recent genome-wide association studies yielded inconsistent, underpowered and rarely replicated results such that the role of human host genetics as a contributing factor to microbiome assembly and structure remains uncertain5-11. Nevertheless, twin studies clearly suggest host genetics as a driver of microbiome composition11. In a genome-wide association analysis of 8,956 German individuals, we identified 38 genetic loci to be associated with single bacteria and overall microbiome composition. Further analyses confirm the identified associations of ABO histo-blood groups and FUT2 secretor status with Bacteroides and Faecalibacterium spp. Mendelian randomization analysis suggests causative and protective effects of gut microbes, with clade-specific effects on inflammatory bowel disease. This holistic investigative approach of the host, its genetics and its associated microbial communities as a 'metaorganism' broaden our understanding of disease etiology, and emphasize the potential for implementing microbiota in disease treatment and management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ABO Blood-Group System / genetics*
  • Bacteroides / genetics
  • Faecalibacterium / genetics
  • Fucosyltransferases / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / genetics*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Lactase / genetics
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis


  • ABO Blood-Group System
  • Fucosyltransferases
  • galactoside 2-alpha-L-fucosyltransferase
  • Lactase