Population-wide diversity and stability of serum antibody epitope repertoires against human microbiota

Nat Med. 2021 Aug;27(8):1442-1450. doi: 10.1038/s41591-021-01409-3. Epub 2021 Jul 19.


Serum antibodies can recognize both pathogens and commensal gut microbiota. However, our current understanding of antibody repertoires is largely based on DNA sequencing of the corresponding B-cell receptor genes, and actual bacterial antigen targets remain incompletely characterized. Here we have profiled the serum antibody responses of 997 healthy individuals against 244,000 rationally selected peptide antigens derived from gut microbiota and pathogenic and probiotic bacteria. Leveraging phage immunoprecipitation sequencing (PhIP-Seq) based on phage-displayed synthetic oligo libraries, we detect a wide breadth of individual-specific as well as shared antibody responses against microbiota that associate with age and gender. We also demonstrate that these antibody epitope repertoires are more longitudinally stable than gut microbiome species abundances. Serum samples of more than 200 individuals collected five years apart could be accurately matched and could serve as an immunologic fingerprint. Overall, our results suggest that systemic antibody responses provide a non-redundant layer of information about microbiota beyond gut microbial species composition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epitopes / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / immunology*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Machine Learning
  • Male
  • Metagenomics
  • Microbiota*
  • Middle Aged
  • Peptide Library
  • Young Adult


  • Epitopes
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Peptide Library