All vertebrates contain a diverse collection of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, on their various body surfaces, and the ecological community of these microorganisms is referred to as the microbiota. Mucosal sites, such as the intestine, harbour the majority of microorganisms, and the human intestine contains the largest community of commensal and symbiotic bacteria. This intestinal community of bacteria is diverse, and there is a significant variability among individuals with respect to the composition of the intestinal microbiome. Both genetic and environmental factors can influence the diversity and composition of the intestinal bacteria with the predominant environmental factor being diet. So far, studies have shown that diet-dependent differences in the composition of intestinal bacteria can be classified into three groups, called enterotypes. Other environmental factors that can influence the composition include antibiotics, probiotics, smoking and drugs. Studies of monozygotic and dizygotic twins have proven that genetics plays a role. Recently, MHC II genes have been associated with specific microbial compositions in human infants and transgenic mice that express different HLA alleles. There is a growing list of genes/molecules that are involved with the sensing and monitoring of the intestinal lumen by the intestinal immune system that, when genetically altered, will significantly alter the composition of the intestinal microflora. The focus of this review will be on the genetic factors that influence the composition of the intestinal microflora.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy