Honors & Awards

  • Walter V. and Idun Berry Postdoctoral Fellowship, Stanford University (2009-2013)
  • K99 Pathway to Independence Award, NIH/NICHD (2013-2016)

Education & Certifications

  • Postdoc, Stanford University (2013)
  • Postdoc, University of Colorado Boulder (2009)
  • PhD, University of Colorado Boulder (2007)
  • BS, Cornell University (1999)

All Publications

  • Sub-communities of the vaginal microbiota in pregnant and non-pregnant women. Proceedings. Biological sciences Symul, L., Jeganathan, P., Costello, E. K., France, M., Bloom, S. M., Kwon, D. S., Ravel, J., Relman, D. A., Holmes, S. 2023; 290 (2011): 20231461


    Diverse and non-Lactobacillus-dominated vaginal microbial communities are associated with adverse health outcomes such as preterm birth and the acquisition of sexually transmitted infections. Despite the importance of recognizing and understanding the key risk-associated features of these communities, their heterogeneous structure and properties remain ill-defined. Clustering approaches are commonly used to characterize vaginal communities, but they lack sensitivity and robustness in resolving substructures and revealing transitions between potential sub-communities. Here, we address this need with an approach based on mixed membership topic models. Using longitudinal data from cohorts of pregnant and non-pregnant study participants, we show that topic models more accurately describe sample composition, longitudinal changes, and better predict the loss of Lactobacillus dominance. We identify several non-Lactobacillus-dominated sub-communities common to both cohorts and independent of reproductive status. In non-pregnant individuals, we find that the menstrual cycle modulates transitions between and within sub-communities, as well as the concentrations of half of the cytokines and 18% of metabolites. Overall, our analyses based on mixed membership models reveal substructures of vaginal ecosystems which may have important clinical and biological associations.

    View details for DOI 10.1098/rspb.2023.1461

    View details for PubMedID 38018105

  • Abrupt perturbation and delayed recovery of the vaginal ecosystem following childbirth. Nature communications Costello, E. K., DiGiulio, D. B., Robaczewska, A., Symul, L., Wong, R. J., Shaw, G. M., Stevenson, D. K., Holmes, S. P., Kwon, D. S., Relman, D. A. 2023; 14 (1): 4141


    The vaginal ecosystem is closely tied to human health and reproductive outcomes, yet its dynamics in the wake of childbirth remain poorly characterized. Here, we profile the vaginal microbiota and cytokine milieu of participants sampled longitudinally throughout pregnancy and for at least one year postpartum. We show that delivery, regardless of mode, is associated with a vaginal pro-inflammatory cytokine response and the loss of Lactobacillus dominance. By contrast, neither the progression of gestation nor the approach of labor strongly altered the vaginal ecosystem. At 9.5-months postpartum-the latest timepoint at which cytokines were assessed-elevated inflammation coincided with vaginal bacterial communities that had remained perturbed (highly diverse) from the time of delivery. Time-to-event analysis indicated a one-year postpartum probability of transitioning to Lactobacillus dominance of 49.4%. As diversity and inflammation declined during the postpartum period, dominance by L. crispatus, the quintessential health-associated commensal, failed to return: its prevalence before, immediately after, and one year after delivery was 41%, 4%, and 9%, respectively. Revisiting our pre-delivery data, we found that a prior live birth was associated with a lower odds of L. crispatus dominance in pregnant participants-an outcome modestly tempered by a longer ( > 18-month) interpregnancy interval. Our results suggest that reproductive history and childbirth in particular remodel the vaginal ecosystem and that the timing and degree of recovery from delivery may help determine the subsequent health of the woman and of future pregnancies.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-023-39849-9

    View details for PubMedID 37438386

    View details for PubMedCentralID 4355684

  • Rookery through rehabilitation: Microbial community assembly in newborn harbour seals after maternal separation. Environmental microbiology Switzer, A. D., Callahan, B. J., Costello, E. K., Bik, E. M., Fontaine, C., Gulland, F. M., Relman, D. A. 2023


    Microbial community assembly remains largely unexplored in marine mammals, despite its potential importance for conservation and management. Here, neonatal microbiota assembly was studied in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) at a rehabilitation facility soon after maternal separation, through weaning, to the time of release back to their native environment. We found that the gingival and rectal communities of rehabilitated harbour seals were distinct from the microbiotas of formula and pool water, and became increasingly diverse and dissimilar over time, ultimately resembling the gingival and rectal communities of local wild harbour seals. Harbour seal microbiota assembly was compared to that of human infants, revealing the rapid emergence of host specificity and evidence of phylosymbiosis even though these harbour seals had been raised by humans. Early life prophylactic antibiotics were associated with changes in the composition of the harbour seal gingival and rectal communities and surprisingly, with transient increases in alpha diversity, perhaps because of microbiota sharing during close cohabitation with other harbour seals. Antibiotic-associated effects dissipated over time. These results suggest that while early life maternal contact may provide seeding for microbial assembly, co-housing of conspecifics during rehabilitation may help neonatal mammals achieve a healthy host-specific microbiota with features of resilience.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/1462-2920.16444

    View details for PubMedID 37329141

  • Early prediction and longitudinal modeling of preeclampsia from multiomics. Patterns (New York, N.Y.) Maric, I., Contrepois, K., Moufarrej, M. N., Stelzer, I. A., Feyaerts, D., Han, X., Tang, A., Stanley, N., Wong, R. J., Traber, G. M., Ellenberger, M., Chang, A. L., Fallahzadeh, R., Nassar, H., Becker, M., Xenochristou, M., Espinosa, C., De Francesco, D., Ghaemi, M. S., Costello, E. K., Culos, A., Ling, X. B., Sylvester, K. G., Darmstadt, G. L., Winn, V. D., Shaw, G. M., Relman, D. A., Quake, S. R., Angst, M. S., Snyder, M. P., Stevenson, D. K., Gaudilliere, B., Aghaeepour, N. 2022; 3 (12): 100655


    Preeclampsia is a complex disease of pregnancy whose physiopathology remains unclear. We developed machine-learning models for early prediction of preeclampsia (first 16weeks of pregnancy) and over gestation by analyzing six omics datasets from a longitudinal cohort of pregnant women. For early pregnancy, a prediction model using nine urine metabolites had the highest accuracy and was validated on an independent cohort (area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve [AUC]= 0.88, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.76, 0.99] cross-validated; AUC= 0.83, 95% CI [0.62,1] validated). Univariate analysis demonstrated statistical significance of identified metabolites. An integrated multiomics model further improved accuracy (AUC= 0.94). Several biological pathways were identified including tryptophan, caffeine, and arachidonic acid metabolisms. Integration with immune cytometry data suggested novel associations between immune and proteomic dynamics. While further validation in a larger population is necessary, these encouraging results can serve as a basis for a simple, early diagnostic test for preeclampsia.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.patter.2022.100655

    View details for PubMedID 36569558

  • Short-Term Dairy Product Elimination and Reintroduction Minimally Perturbs the Gut Microbiota in Self-Reported Lactose-Intolerant Adults. mBio Smith, C. J., Dethlefsen, L., Gardner, C., Nguyen, L., Feldman, M., Costello, E. K., Kolodny, O., Relman, D. A. 2022: e0105122


    An outstanding question regarding the human gut microbiota is whether and how microbiota-directed interventions influence host phenotypic traits. Here, we employed a dietary intervention to probe this question in the context of lactose intolerance. To assess the effects of dietary dairy product elimination and (re)introduction on the microbiota and host phenotype, we studied 12 self-reported mildly lactose-intolerant adults with triweekly collection of fecal samples over a 12-week study period: 2weeks of baseline diet, 4weeks of dairy product elimination, and 6weeks of gradual whole cow milk (re)introduction. Of the 12 subjects, 6 reported either no dairy or only lactose-free dairy product consumption. A clinical assay for lactose intolerance, the hydrogen breath test, was performed before and after each of these three study phases, and 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing was performed on all fecal samples. We found that none of the subjects showed change in a clinically defined measure of lactose tolerance. Similarly, fecal microbiota structure resisted modification. Although the mean fraction of the genus Bifidobacterium, a group known to metabolize lactose, increased slightly with milk (re)introduction (from 0.0125 to 0.0206; Wilcoxon P=0.068), the overall structure of each subject's gut microbiota remained highly individualized and largely stable in the face of diet manipulation. IMPORTANCE Lactose intolerance is a gastrointestinal disorder diagnosed with a lactose hydrogen breath test. Lifestyle changes such as diet interventions can impact the gut microbiome; however, the role of the microbiome in lactose intolerance is unclear. Our study assessed the effects of a 12-week dietary dairy product elimination and (re)introduction on the microbiome and clinical lactose intolerance status in 12 adult self-reported lactose-intolerant individuals. We found each subject's gut microbiome remained highly individualized and largely stable in the face of this diet manipulation. We also report that none of the subjects showed change in a clinically defined measure of lactose tolerance.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/mbio.01051-22

    View details for PubMedID 35695459

  • Characterizing the oral and distal gut microbiota of the threatened southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) to enhance conservation practice. Conservation science and practice Dudek, N. K., Switzer, A. D., Costello, E. K., Murray, M. J., Tomoleoni, J. A., Staedler, M. M., Tinker, M. T., Relman, D. A. 2022; 4 (4)


    The southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) is a threatened sub-species in coastal ecosystems. To understand better the role of diet, monitor health, and enhance management of this and other marine mammal species, we characterized the oral (gingival) and distal gut (rectal and fecal) microbiota of 158 wild southern sea otters living off the coast of central California, USA, and 12 captive sea otters, some of which were included in a diet shift experiment. We found that the sea otter fecal microbiota was distinct from that of three other otter species, and that captivity does not significantly alter the community structure of the sea otter gingival or distal gut microbiota. Metagenomic analysis unexpectedly revealed that the majority of sea otter fecal DNA is derived from prey, rather than from indigenous bacteria or host cells as with most other mammals. We speculate that a reduced bacterial biomass in the sea otter gut reflects rapid gut transit time and a particular strategy for foraging and energy harvest. This study establishes a reference for the healthy sea otter microbiota, highlights how a marine lifestyle may shape the mammalian microbiota, and may inform future health assessments and conservation management of sea otter populations.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/csp2.12640

    View details for PubMedID 35382031

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8979051

  • The human gut microbiome and health inequities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Amato, K. R., Arrieta, M., Azad, M. B., Bailey, M. T., Broussard, J. L., Bruggeling, C. E., Claud, E. C., Costello, E. K., Davenport, E. R., Dutilh, B. E., Swain Ewald, H. A., Ewald, P., Hanlon, E. C., Julion, W., Keshavarzian, A., Maurice, C. F., Miller, G. E., Preidis, G. A., Segurel, L., Singer, B., Subramanian, S., Zhao, L., Kuzawa, C. W. 2021; 118 (25)


    Individuals who are minoritized as a result of race, sexual identity, gender, or socioeconomic status experience a higher prevalence of many diseases. Understanding the biological processes that cause and maintain these socially driven health inequities is essential for addressing them. The gut microbiome is strongly shaped by host environments and affects host metabolic, immune, and neuroendocrine functions, making it an important pathway by which differences in experiences caused by social, political, and economic forces could contribute to health inequities. Nevertheless, few studies have directly integrated the gut microbiome into investigations of health inequities. Here, we argue that accounting for host-gut microbe interactions will improve understanding and management of health inequities, and that health policy must begin to consider the microbiome as an important pathway linking environments to population health.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.2017947118

    View details for PubMedID 34161260

  • Microbiota assembly, structure, and dynamics among Tsimane horticulturalists of the Bolivian Amazon. Nature communications Sprockett, D. D., Martin, M., Costello, E. K., Burns, A. R., Holmes, S. P., Gurven, M. D., Relman, D. A. 2020; 11 (1): 3772


    Selective and neutral forces shape human microbiota assembly in early life. The Tsimane are an indigenous Bolivian population with infant care-associated behaviors predicted to increase mother-infant microbial dispersal. Here, we characterize microbial community assembly in 47 infant-mother pairs from six Tsimane villages, using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing of longitudinal stool and tongue swab samples. We find that infant consumption of dairy products, vegetables, and chicha (a fermented drink inoculated with oral microbes) is associated with stool microbiota composition. In stool and tongue samples, microbes shared between mothers and infants are more abundant than non-shared microbes. Using a neutral model of community assembly, we find that neutral processes alone explain the prevalence of 79% of infant-colonizing microbes, but explain microbial prevalence less well in adults from river villages with more regular access to markets. Our results underscore the importance of neutral forces during microbiota assembly. Changing lifestyle factors may alter traditional modes of microbiota assembly by decreasing the role of neutral processes.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-020-17541-6

    View details for PubMedID 32728114

  • Complete Genome Sequences of Six Lactobacillus iners Strains Isolated from the Human Vagina. Microbiology resource announcements France, M. T., Rutt, L. n., Narina, S. n., Arbaugh, S. n., McComb, E. n., Humphrys, M. S., Ma, B. n., Hayward, M. R., Costello, E. K., Relman, D. A., Kwon, D. S., Ravel, J. n. 2020; 9 (20)


    Lactobacillus iners is a common member of the human vaginal microbiota, with a genome size smaller than that of other lactobacilli. Here, we report the complete genome sequences of six L. iners strains isolated from different vaginal swab specimens. Three strains were found to harbor ∼100-kbp plasmids, which were not known previously.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/MRA.00234-20

    View details for PubMedID 32409537

  • Replication and refinement of a vaginal microbial signature of preterm birth in two racially distinct cohorts of US women. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Callahan, B. J., DiGiulio, D. B., Goltsman, D. S., Sun, C. L., Costello, E. K., Jeganathan, P. n., Biggio, J. R., Wong, R. J., Druzin, M. L., Shaw, G. M., Stevenson, D. K., Holmes, S. P., Relman, D. A. 2017


    Preterm birth (PTB) is the leading cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality. Previous studies have suggested that the maternal vaginal microbiota contributes to the pathophysiology of PTB, but conflicting results in recent years have raised doubts. We conducted a study of PTB compared with term birth in two cohorts of pregnant women: one predominantly Caucasian (n = 39) at low risk for PTB, the second predominantly African American and at high-risk (n = 96). We profiled the taxonomic composition of 2,179 vaginal swabs collected prospectively and weekly during gestation using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Previously proposed associations between PTB and lower Lactobacillus and higher Gardnerella abundances replicated in the low-risk cohort, but not in the high-risk cohort. High-resolution bioinformatics enabled taxonomic assignment to the species and subspecies levels, revealing that Lactobacillus crispatus was associated with low risk of PTB in both cohorts, while Lactobacillus iners was not, and that a subspecies clade of Gardnerella vaginalis explained the genus association with PTB. Patterns of cooccurrence between L. crispatus and Gardnerella were highly exclusive, while Gardnerella and L. iners often coexisted at high frequencies. We argue that the vaginal microbiota is better represented by the quantitative frequencies of these key taxa than by classifying communities into five community state types. Our findings extend and corroborate the association between the vaginal microbiota and PTB, demonstrate the benefits of high-resolution statistical bioinformatics in clinical microbiome studies, and suggest that previous conflicting results may reflect the different risk profile of women of black race.

    View details for PubMedID 28847941

  • Candidatus Mycoplasma girerdii replicates, diversifies, and co-occurs with Trichomonas vaginalis in the oral cavity of a premature infant. Scientific reports Costello, E. K., Sun, C. L., Carlisle, E. M., Morowitz, M. J., Banfield, J. F., Relman, D. A. 2017; 7 (1): 3764


    Genital mycoplasmas, which can be vertically transmitted, have been implicated in preterm birth, neonatal infections, and chronic lung disease of prematurity. Our prior work uncovered 16S rRNA genes belonging to a novel, as-yet-uncultivated mycoplasma (lineage 'Mnola') in the oral cavity of a premature neonate. Here, we characterize the organism's associated community, growth status, metabolic potential, and population diversity. Sequencing of genomic DNA from the infant's saliva yielded 1.44 Gbp of high-quality, non-human read data, from which we recovered three essentially complete (including 'Mnola') and three partial draft genomes (including Trichomonas vaginalis). The completed 629,409-bp 'Mnola' genome (Candidatus Mycoplasma girerdii str. UC-B3) was distinct at the strain level from its closest relative, vaginally-derived Ca. M. girerdii str. VCU-M1, which is also associated with T. vaginalis. Replication rate measurements indicated growth of str. UC-B3 within the infant. Genes encoding surface-associated proteins and restriction-modification systems were especially diverse within and between strains. In UC-B3, the population genetic underpinnings of phase variable expression were evident in vivo. Unique among mycoplasmas, Ca. M. girerdii encodes pyruvate-ferredoxin oxidoreductase and may be sensitive to metronidazole. This study reveals a metabolically unique mycoplasma colonizing a premature neonate, and establishes the value of genome-resolved metagenomics in tracking phase variation.

    View details for PubMedID 28630471

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5476646

  • Marine mammals harbor unique microbiotas shaped by and yet distinct from the sea. Nature communications Bik, E. M., Costello, E. K., Switzer, A. D., Callahan, B. J., Holmes, S. P., Wells, R. S., Carlin, K. P., Jensen, E. D., Venn-Watson, S., Relman, D. A. 2016; 7: 10516-?


    Marine mammals play crucial ecological roles in the oceans, but little is known about their microbiotas. Here we study the bacterial communities in 337 samples from 5 body sites in 48 healthy dolphins and 18 healthy sea lions, as well as those of adjacent seawater and other hosts. The bacterial taxonomic compositions are distinct from those of other mammals, dietary fish and seawater, are highly diverse and vary according to body site and host species. Dolphins harbour 30 bacterial phyla, with 25 of them in the mouth, several abundant but poorly characterized Tenericutes species in gastric fluid and a surprisingly paucity of Bacteroidetes in distal gut. About 70% of near-full length bacterial 16S ribosomal RNA sequences from dolphins are unique. Host habitat, diet and phylogeny all contribute to variation in marine mammal distal gut microbiota composition. Our findings help elucidate the factors structuring marine mammal microbiotas and may enhance monitoring of marine mammal health.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ncomms10516

    View details for PubMedID 26839246

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4742810

  • Temporal and spatial variation of the human microbiota during pregnancy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America DiGiulio, D. B., Callahan, B. J., McMurdie, P. J., Costello, E. K., Lyell, D. J., Robaczewska, A., Sun, C. L., Goltsman, D. S., Wong, R. J., Shaw, G., Stevenson, D. K., Holmes, S. P., Relman, D. A. 2015


    Despite the critical role of the human microbiota in health, our understanding of microbiota compositional dynamics during and after pregnancy is incomplete. We conducted a case-control study of 49 pregnant women, 15 of whom delivered preterm. From 40 of these women, we analyzed bacterial taxonomic composition of 3,767 specimens collected prospectively and weekly during gestation and monthly after delivery from the vagina, distal gut, saliva, and tooth/gum. Linear mixed-effects modeling, medoid-based clustering, and Markov chain modeling were used to analyze community temporal trends, community structure, and vaginal community state transitions. Microbiota community taxonomic composition and diversity remained remarkably stable at all four body sites during pregnancy (P > 0.05 for trends over time). Prevalence of a Lactobacillus-poor vaginal community state type (CST 4) was inversely correlated with gestational age at delivery (P = 0.0039). Risk for preterm birth was more pronounced for subjects with CST 4 accompanied by elevated Gardnerella or Ureaplasma abundances. This finding was validated with a set of 246 vaginal specimens from nine women (four of whom delivered preterm). Most women experienced a postdelivery disturbance in the vaginal community characterized by a decrease in Lactobacillus species and an increase in diverse anaerobes such as Peptoniphilus, Prevotella, and Anaerococcus species. This disturbance was unrelated to gestational age at delivery and persisted for up to 1 y. These findings have important implications for predicting premature labor, a major global health problem, and for understanding the potential impact of a persistent, altered postpartum microbiota on maternal health, including outcomes of pregnancies following short interpregnancy intervals.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1502875112

    View details for PubMedID 26283357

  • Population health: immaturity in the gut microbial community. Nature Costello, E. K., Relman, D. A. 2014; 510 (7505): 344-345

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature13347

    View details for PubMedID 24896185

  • Genetically dictated change in host mucus carbohydrate landscape exerts a diet-dependent effect on the gut microbiota PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Kashyap, P. C., Marcobal, A., Ursell, L. K., Smits, S. A., Sonnenburg, E. D., Costello, E. K., Higginbottom, S. K., Domino, S. E., Holmes, S. P., Relman, D. A., Knight, R., Gordon, J. I., Sonnenburg, J. L. 2013; 110 (42): 17059-17064


    We investigate how host mucus glycan composition interacts with dietary carbohydrate content to influence the composition and expressed functions of a human gut community. The humanized gnotobiotic mice mimic humans with a nonsecretor phenotype due to knockout of their α1-2 fucosyltransferase (Fut2) gene. The fecal microbiota of Fut2(-) mice that lack fucosylated host glycans show decreased alpha diversity relative to Fut2(+) mice and exhibit significant differences in community composition. A glucose-rich plant polysaccharide-deficient (PD) diet exerted a strong effect on the microbiota membership but eliminated the effect of Fut2 genotype. Additionally fecal metabolites predicted host genotype in mice on a polysaccharide-rich standard diet but not on a PD diet. A more detailed mechanistic analysis of these interactions involved colonization of gnotobiotic Fut2(+) and Fut2(-) mice with Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a prominent member of the human gut microbiota known to adaptively forage host mucosal glycans when dietary polysaccharides are absent. Within Fut2(-) mice, the B. thetaiotaomicron fucose catabolic pathway was markedly down-regulated, whereas BT4241-4247, an operon responsive to terminal β-galactose, the precursor that accumulates in the Fut2(-) mice, was significantly up-regulated. These changes in B. thetaiotaomicron gene expression were only evident in mice fed a PD diet, wherein B. thetaiotaomicron relies on host mucus consumption. Furthermore, up-regulation of the BT4241-4247 operon was also seen in humanized Fut2(-) mice. Together, these data demonstrate that differences in host genotype that affect the carbohydrate landscape of the distal gut interact with diet to alter the composition and function of resident microbes in a diet-dependent manner.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1306070110

    View details for Web of Science ID 000325634200076

    View details for PubMedID 24062455

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3800993

  • Biphasic assembly of the murine intestinal microbiota during early development. ISME journal Pantoja-Feliciano, I. G., Clemente, J. C., Costello, E. K., Perez, M. E., Blaser, M. J., Knight, R., Dominguez-Bello, M. G. 2013; 7 (6): 1112-1115


    The birth canal provides mammals with a primary maternal inoculum, which develops into distinctive body site-specific microbial communities post-natally. We characterized the distal gut microbiota from birth to weaning in mice. One-day-old mice had colonic microbiota that resembled maternal vaginal communities, but at days 3 and 9 of age there was a substantial loss of intestinal bacterial diversity and dominance of Lactobacillus. By weaning (21 days), diverse intestinal bacteria had established, including strict anaerobes. Our results are consistent with vertical transmission of maternal microbiota and demonstrate a nonlinear ecological succession involving an early drop in bacterial diversity and shift in dominance from Streptococcus to Lactobacillus, followed by an increase in diversity of anaerobes, after the introduction of solid food. Mammalian newborns are born highly susceptible to colonization, and lactation may control microbiome assembly during early development.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ismej.2013.15

    View details for PubMedID 23535917

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3660675

  • Distinct Distal Gut Microbiome Diversity and Composition in Healthy Children from Bangladesh and the United States PLOS ONE Lin, A., Bik, E. M., Costello, E. K., Dethlefsen, L., Haque, R., Relman, D. A., Singh, U. 2013; 8 (1)


    Our current understanding of the composition and stability of the human distal gut microbiota is based largely on studies of infants and adults living in developed countries. In contrast, little is known about the gut microbiota and its variation over time in older children and adolescents, especially in developing countries.We compared the diversity, composition, and temporal stability of the fecal microbiota of healthy children, ages 9 to 14 years, living in an urban slum in Bangladesh with that of children of the same age range in an upper-middle class suburban community in the United States. We analyzed >8,000 near full-length 16S rRNA gene sequences and over 845,000 pyrosequencing reads of the 16S rRNA V1-V3 region. The distal gut of Bangladeshi children harbored significantly greater bacterial diversity than that of U.S. children, including novel lineages from several bacterial phyla. Bangladeshi and U.S. children had distinct fecal bacterial community membership and structure; the microbiota of Bangladeshi children was enriched in Prevotella, Butyrivibrio, and Oscillospira and depleted in Bacteroides relative to U.S. children (although similar to Bangladeshi adults). Furthermore, community membership and structure in Bangladeshi children was significantly less stable month-to-month than U.S. children.Together, these results suggest that differing environmental or genetic factors may shape the microbiota of healthy children in the two countries. Further investigation is necessary to understand the mechanisms and factors that underlie these differences, and to incorporate these findings into new strategies for the prevention and treatment of childhood and adolescent diseases.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0053838

    View details for Web of Science ID 000314019100034

    View details for PubMedID 23349750

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3551965

  • Time series community genomics analysis reveals rapid shifts in bacterial species, strains, and phage during infant gut colonization GENOME RESEARCH Sharon, I., Morowitz, M. J., Thomas, B. C., Costello, E. K., Relman, D. A., Banfield, J. F. 2013; 23 (1): 111-120


    The gastrointestinal microbiome undergoes shifts in species and strain abundances, yet dynamics involving closely related microorganisms remain largely unknown because most methods cannot resolve them. We developed new metagenomic methods and utilized them to track species and strain level variations in microbial communities in 11 fecal samples collected from a premature infant during the first month of life. Ninety six percent of the sequencing reads were assembled into scaffolds of >500 bp in length that could be assigned to organisms at the strain level. Six essentially complete (∼99%) and two near-complete genomes were assembled for bacteria that comprised as little as 1% of the community, as well as nine partial genomes of bacteria representing as little as 0.05%. In addition, three viral genomes were assembled and assigned to their hosts. The relative abundance of three Staphylococcus epidermidis strains, as well as three phages that infect them, changed dramatically over time. Genes possibly related to these shifts include those for resistance to antibiotics, heavy metals, and phage. At the species level, we observed the decline of an early-colonizing Propionibacterium acnes strain similar to SK137 and the proliferation of novel Propionibacterium and Peptoniphilus species late in colonization. The Propionibacterium species differed in their ability to metabolize carbon compounds such as inositol and sialic acid, indicating that shifts in species composition likely impact the metabolic potential of the community. These results highlight the benefit of reconstructing complete genomes from metagenomic data and demonstrate methods for achieving this goal.

    View details for DOI 10.1101/gr.142315.112

    View details for Web of Science ID 000312963400010

    View details for PubMedID 22936250

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3530670

  • Microbiome assembly across multiple body sites in low-birthweight infants. mBio Costello, E. K., Carlisle, E. M., Bik, E. M., Morowitz, M. J., Relman, D. A. 2013; 4 (6): e00782-13


    ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to evaluate the composition and richness of bacterial communities associated with low-birthweight (LBW) infants in relation to host body site, individual, and age. Bacterial 16S rRNA genes from saliva samples, skin swabs, and stool samples collected on postnatal days 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, and 21 from six LBW (five premature) infants were amplified, pyrosequenced, and analyzed within a comparative framework that included analogous data from normal-birthweight (NBW) infants and healthy adults. We found that body site was the primary determinant of bacterial community composition in the LBW infants. However, site specificity depended on postnatal age: saliva and stool compositions diverged over time but were not significantly different until the babies were 15 days old. This divergence was primarily driven by progressive temporal turnover in the distal gut, which proceeded at a rate similar to that of age-matched NBW infants. Neonatal skin was the most adult-like in microbiota composition, while saliva and stool remained the least so. Compositional variation among infants was marked and depended on body site and age. Only the smallest, most premature infant received antibiotics during the study period; this heralded a coexpansion of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and a novel Mycoplasma sp. in the oral cavity of this vaginally delivered, intubated patient. We conclude that concurrent molecular surveillance of multiple body sites in LBW neonates reveals a delayed compositional differentiation of the oral cavity and distal gut microbiota and, in the case of one infant, an abundant, uncultivated oral Mycoplasma sp., recently detected in human vaginal samples. IMPORTANCE Complications of premature birth are the most common cause of neonatal mortality. Colonization by the indigenous microbiota, which begins at delivery, may predispose some high-risk newborns to invasive infection or necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), and protect others, yet neonatal microbiome dynamics are poorly understood. Here, we present the first cultivation-independent time series tracking microbiota assembly across multiple body sites in a synchronous cohort of hospitalized low-birthweight (LBW) neonates. We take advantage of archived samples and publically available sequence data and compare our LBW infant findings to those from normal-birthweight (NBW) infants and healthy adults. Our results suggest potential windows of opportunity for the dispersal of microbes within and between hosts and support recent findings of substantial baseline spatiotemporal variation in microbiota composition among high-risk newborns.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/mBio.00782-13

    View details for PubMedID 24169577

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3809564

  • Cohabiting family members share microbiota with one another and with their dogs. eLife Song, S. J., Lauber, C., Costello, E. K., Lozupone, C. A., Humphrey, G., Berg-Lyons, D., Caporaso, J. G., Knights, D., Clemente, J. C., Nakielny, S., Gordon, J. I., Fierer, N., Knight, R. 2013; 2


    Human-associated microbial communities vary across individuals: possible contributing factors include (genetic) relatedness, diet, and age. However, our surroundings, including individuals with whom we interact, also likely shape our microbial communities. To quantify this microbial exchange, we surveyed fecal, oral, and skin microbiota from 60 families (spousal units with children, dogs, both, or neither). Household members, particularly couples, shared more of their microbiota than individuals from different households, with stronger effects of co-habitation on skin than oral or fecal microbiota. Dog ownership significantly increased the shared skin microbiota in cohabiting adults, and dog-owning adults shared more 'skin' microbiota with their own dogs than with other dogs. Although the degree to which these shared microbes have a true niche on the human body, vs transient detection after direct contact, is unknown, these results suggest that direct and frequent contact with our cohabitants may significantly shape the composition of our microbial communities. DOI:

    View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.00458

    View details for PubMedID 23599893

  • Distinct cutaneous bacterial assemblages in a sampling of South American Amerindians and US residents ISME JOURNAL Blaser, M. J., Dominguez-Bello, M. G., Contreras, M., Magris, M., Hidalgo, G., Estrada, I., Gao, Z., Clemente, J. C., Costello, E. K., Knight, R. 2013; 7 (1): 85-95


    The human skin harbors complex bacterial communities. Prior studies showing high inter-individual variation focused on subjects from developed countries. We therefore compared cutaneous bacterial communities of Amerindians in the Venezuelan Amazon with subjects in the United States. Forearm skin specimens were studied from healthy Amerindians in Platanillal village in Amazonas State, and from healthy persons in New York and Colorado. All skin sampling used similar swab/buffer techniques. Multiplexed V2-targeted 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing yielded high quality sequences from 112 samples. The results show 20 phyla, with three (Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria) predominating. US residents and Venezuelan Amerindians had significantly different forearm skin bacterial community compositions, with United States dominated by Propionibacterium. Among the Amerindians, there was a deep split based on bacterial community membership, with 30 and 42 samples, respectively, falling into each of the two groups, not associated with age, gender, or body mass index. One Amerindian group had diversity similar to the United States, but was dominated by Staphylococcus rather than Propionibacterium. The other Amerindian group was significantly more diverse and even than the US or the other Amerindian group, and featured a broad range of Proteobacteria. The results provide evidence that ethnicity, lifestyle and/or geography are associated with the structure of human cutaneous bacterial communities.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ismej.2012.81

    View details for Web of Science ID 000313236000008

    View details for PubMedID 22895161

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3526177

  • The Application of Ecological Theory Toward an Understanding of the Human Microbiome SCIENCE Costello, E. K., Stagaman, K., Dethlefsen, L., Bohannan, B. J., Relman, D. A. 2012; 336 (6086): 1255-1262


    The human-microbial ecosystem plays a variety of important roles in human health and disease. Each person can be viewed as an island-like "patch" of habitat occupied by microbial assemblages formed by the fundamental processes of community ecology: dispersal, local diversification, environmental selection, and ecological drift. Community assembly theory, and metacommunity theory in particular, provides a framework for understanding the ecological dynamics of the human microbiome, such as compositional variability within and between hosts. We explore three core scenarios of human microbiome assembly: development in infants, representing assembly in previously unoccupied habitats; recovery from antibiotics, representing assembly after disturbance; and invasion by pathogens, representing assembly in the context of invasive species. Judicious application of ecological theory may lead to improved strategies for restoring and maintaining the microbiota and the crucial health-associated ecosystem services that it provides.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1224203

    View details for Web of Science ID 000304905300034

    View details for PubMedID 22674335

  • Sources of Bacteria in Outdoor Air across Cities in the Midwestern United States APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY Bowers, R. M., Sullivan, A. P., Costello, E. K., Collett, J. L., Knight, R., Fierer, N. 2011; 77 (18): 6350-6356


    Bacteria are abundant in the atmosphere, where they often represent a major portion of the organic aerosols. Potential pathogens of plants and livestock are commonly dispersed through the atmosphere, and airborne bacteria can have important effects on human health as pathogens or triggers of allergic asthma and seasonal allergies. Despite their importance, the diversity and biogeography of airborne microorganisms remain poorly understood. We used high-throughput pyrosequencing to analyze bacterial communities present in the aerosol fraction containing fine particulate matter of ≤2.5 μm from 96 near-surface atmospheric samples collected from cities throughout the midwestern United States and found that the communities are surprisingly diverse and strongly affected by the season. We also directly compared the airborne communities to those found in hundreds of samples representing potential source environments. We show that, in addition to the more predictable sources (soils and leaf surfaces), fecal material, most likely dog feces, often represents an unexpected source of bacteria in the atmosphere at more urbanized locations during the winter. Airborne bacteria are clearly an important, but understudied, component of air quality that needs to be better integrated into efforts to measure and model pollutants in the atmosphere.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/AEM.05498-11

    View details for Web of Science ID 000294691400005

    View details for PubMedID 21803902

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3187178

  • Minimum information about a marker gene sequence (MIMARKS) and minimum information about any (x) sequence (MIxS) specifications NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY Yilmaz, P., Kottmann, R., Field, D., Knight, R., Cole, J. R., Amaral-Zettler, L., Gilbert, J. A., Karsch-Mizrachi, I., Johnston, A., Cochrane, G., Vaughan, R., Hunter, C., Park, J., Morrison, N., Rocca-Serra, P., Sterk, P., Arumugam, M., Bailey, M., Baumgartner, L., Birren, B. W., Blaser, M. J., Bonazzi, V., Booth, T., Bork, P., Bushman, F. D., Buttigieg, P. L., Chain, P. S., Charlson, E., Costello, E. K., Huot-Creasy, H., Dawyndt, P., DeSantis, T., Fierer, N., Fuhrman, J. A., Gallery, R. E., Gevers, D., Gibbs, R. A., Gil, I. S., Gonzalez, A., Gordon, J. I., Guralnick, R., Hankeln, W., Highlander, S., Hugenholtz, P., Jansson, J., Kau, A. L., Kelley, S. T., Kennedy, J., Knights, D., Koren, O., Kuczynski, J., Kyrpides, N., Larsen, R., Lauber, C. L., Legg, T., Ley, R. E., Lozupone, C. A., Ludwig, W., Lyons, D., Maguire, E., Methe, B. A., Meyer, F., Muegge, B., Nakielny, S., Nelson, K. E., Nemergut, D., Neufeld, J. D., Newbold, L. K., Oliver, A. E., Pace, N. R., Palanisamy, G., Peplies, J., Petrosino, J., Proctor, L., Pruesse, E., Quast, C., Raes, J., Ratnasingham, S., Ravel, J., Relman, D. A., Assunta-Sansone, S., Schloss, P. D., Schriml, L., Sinha, R., Smith, M. I., Sodergren, E., Spor, A., Stombaugh, J., Tiedje, J. M., Ward, D. V., Weinstock, G. M., Wendel, D., White, O., Whiteley, A., Wilke, A., Wortman, J. R., Yatsunenko, T., Gloeckner, F. O. 2011; 29 (5): 415-420


    Here we present a standard developed by the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) for reporting marker gene sequences--the minimum information about a marker gene sequence (MIMARKS). We also introduce a system for describing the environment from which a biological sample originates. The 'environmental packages' apply to any genome sequence of known origin and can be used in combination with MIMARKS and other GSC checklists. Finally, to establish a unified standard for describing sequence data and to provide a single point of entry for the scientific community to access and learn about GSC checklists, we present the minimum information about any (x) sequence (MIxS). Adoption of MIxS will enhance our ability to analyze natural genetic diversity documented by massive DNA sequencing efforts from myriad ecosystems in our ever-changing biosphere.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nbt.1823

    View details for Web of Science ID 000290301700021

    View details for PubMedID 21552244

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3367316

  • Supervised classification of human microbiota FEMS MICROBIOLOGY REVIEWS Knights, D., Costello, E. K., Knight, R. 2011; 35 (2): 343-359


    Recent advances in DNA sequencing technology have allowed the collection of high-dimensional data from human-associated microbial communities on an unprecedented scale. A major goal of these studies is the identification of important groups of microorganisms that vary according to physiological or disease states in the host, but the incidence of rare taxa and the large numbers of taxa observed make that goal difficult to obtain using traditional approaches. Fortunately, similar problems have been addressed by the machine learning community in other fields of study such as microarray analysis and text classification. In this review, we demonstrate that several existing supervised classifiers can be applied effectively to microbiota classification, both for selecting subsets of taxa that are highly discriminative of the type of community, and for building models that can accurately classify unlabeled data. To encourage the development of new approaches to supervised classification of microbiota, we discuss several structures inherent in microbial community data that may be available for exploitation in novel approaches, and we include as supplemental information several benchmark classification tasks for use by the community.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2010.00251.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000286837600006

    View details for PubMedID 21039646

  • Strain-resolved community genomic analysis of gut microbial colonization in a premature infant PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Morowitz, M. J., Denef, V. J., Costello, E. K., Thomas, B. C., Poroyko, V., Relman, D. A., Banfield, J. F. 2011; 108 (3): 1128-1133


    The intestinal microbiome is a critical determinant of human health. Alterations in its composition have been correlated with chronic disorders, such as obesity and inflammatory bowel disease in adults, and may be associated with neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants. Increasing evidence suggests that strain-level genomic variation may underpin distinct ecological trajectories within mixed populations, yet there have been few strain-resolved analyses of genotype-phenotype connections in the context of the human ecosystem. Here, we document strain-level genomic divergence during the first 3 wk of life within the fecal microbiota of an infant born at 28-wk gestation. We observed three compositional phases during colonization, and reconstructed and intensively curated population genomic datasets from the third phase. The relative abundance of two Citrobacter strains sharing ~99% nucleotide identity changed significantly over time within a community dominated by a nearly clonal Serratia population and harboring a lower abundance Enterococcus population and multiple plasmids and bacteriophage. Modeling of Citrobacter strain abundance suggests differences in growth rates and host colonization patterns. We identified genotypic variation potentially responsible for divergent strain ecologies, including hotspots of sequence variation in regulatory genes and intergenic regions, and in genes involved in transport, flagellar biosynthesis, substrate metabolism, and host colonization, as well as differences in the complements of these genes. Our results demonstrate that a community genomic approach can elucidate gut microbial colonization at the resolution required to discern medically relevant strain and species population dynamics, and hence improve our ability to diagnose and treat microbial community-mediated disorders.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1010992108

    View details for Web of Science ID 000286310300046

    View details for PubMedID 21191099

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3024690

  • Global patterns in the biogeography of bacterial taxa ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY Nemergut, D. R., Costello, E. K., Hamady, M., Lozupone, C., Jiang, L., Schmidt, S. K., Fierer, N., Townsend, A. R., Cleveland, C. C., Stanish, L., Knight, R. 2011; 13 (1): 135-144


    Bacteria control major nutrient cycles and directly influence plant, animal and human health. However, we know relatively little about the forces shaping their large-scale ecological ranges. Here, we reveal patterns in the distribution of individual bacterial taxa at multiple levels of phylogenetic resolution within and between Earth's major habitat types. Our analyses suggest that while macro-scale habitats structure bacterial distribution to some degree, abundant bacteria (i.e. detectable using 16S rRNA gene sequencing methods) are confined to single assemblages. Additionally, we show that the most cosmopolitan taxa are also the most abundant in individual assemblages. These results add to the growing body of data that support that the diversity of the overall bacterial metagenome is tremendous. The mechanisms governing microbial distribution remain poorly understood, but our analyses provide a framework with which to test the importance of macro-ecological environmental gradients, relative abundance, neutral processes and the ecological strategies of individual taxa in structuring microbial communities.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2010.02315.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000285876600012

    View details for PubMedID 21199253

  • Moving pictures of the human microbiome GENOME BIOLOGY Caporaso, J. G., Lauber, C. L., Costello, E. K., Berg-Lyons, D., Gonzalez, A., Stombaugh, J., Knights, D., Gajer, P., Ravel, J., Fierer, N., Gordon, J. I., Knight, R. 2011; 12 (5)


    Understanding the normal temporal variation in the human microbiome is critical to developing treatments for putative microbiome-related afflictions such as obesity, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease and malnutrition. Sequencing and computational technologies, however, have been a limiting factor in performing dense time series analysis of the human microbiome. Here, we present the largest human microbiota time series analysis to date, covering two individuals at four body sites over 396 timepoints.We find that despite stable differences between body sites and individuals, there is pronounced variability in an individual’s microbiota across months, weeks and even days. Additionally, only a small fraction of the total taxa found within a single body site appear to be present across all time points, suggesting that no core temporal microbiome exists at high abundance (although some microbes may be present but drop below the detection threshold). Many more taxa appear to be persistent but non-permanent community members.DNA sequencing and computational advances described here provide the ability to go beyond infrequent snapshots of our human-associated microbial ecology to high-resolution assessments of temporal variations over protracted periods, within and between body habitats and individuals. This capacity will allow us to define normal variation and pathologic states, and assess responses to therapeutic interventions.

    View details for DOI 10.1186/gb-2011-12-5-r50

    View details for Web of Science ID 000295732700014

    View details for PubMedID 21624126

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3271711

  • The bacterial microbiota in the oral mucosa of rural Amerindians MICROBIOLOGY-SGM Contreras, M., Costello, E. K., Hidalgo, G., Magris, M., Knight, R., Dominguez-Bello, M. G. 2010; 156: 3282-3287


    The oral microbiota plays an important role in buccal health and in diseases such as periodontitis and meningitis. The study of the human oral bacteria has so far focused on subjects from Western societies, while little is known about subjects from isolated communities. This work determined the composition of the oral mucosa microbiota from six Amazon Amerindians, and tested a sample preservation alternative to freezing. Paired oral swabs were taken from six adults of Guahibo ethnicity living in the community of Platanillal, Amazonas State, Venezuela. Replicate swabs were preserved in liquid nitrogen and in Aware Messenger fluid (Calypte). Buccal DNA was extracted, and the V2 region of the 16S rRNA gene was amplified and pyrosequenced. A total of 17 214 oral bacterial sequences were obtained from the six subjects; these were binned into 1034 OTUs from 10 phyla, 30 families and 51 genera. The oral mucosa was highly dominated by four phyla: Firmicutes (mostly the genera Streptococcus and Veillonella), Proteobacteria (mostly Neisseria), Bacterioidetes (Prevotella) and Actinobacteria (Micrococcineae). Although the microbiota were similar at the phylum level, the Amerindians shared only 62 % of the families and 23 % of the genera with non-Amerindians from previous studies, and had a lower richness of genera (51 vs 177 reported in non-Amerindians). The Amerindians carried unidentified members of the phyla Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria and their microbiota included soil bacteria Gp1 (Acidobacteriaceae) and Xylanibacter (Prevotellaceae), and the rare genus Phocoenobacter (Pasteurellaceae). Preserving buccal swabs in the Aware Messenger oral fluid collection device substantially altered the bacterial composition in comparison to freezing, and therefore this method cannot be used to preserve samples for the study of microbial communities.

    View details for DOI 10.1099/mic.0.043174-0

    View details for Web of Science ID 000284660400009

    View details for PubMedID 20847007

  • Postprandial remodeling of the gut microbiota in Burmese pythons ISME JOURNAL Costello, E. K., Gordon, J. I., Secor, S. M., Knight, R. 2010; 4 (11): 1375-1385


    The vertebrate gut microbiota evolved in an environment typified by periodic fluctuations in nutrient availability, yet little is known about its responses to host feeding and fasting. As many model species (for example, mice) are adapted to lifestyles of frequent small meals, we turned to the Burmese python, a sit-and-wait foraging snake that consumes large prey at long intervals (>1 month), to examine the effects of a dynamic nutrient milieu on the gut microbiota. We used multiplexed 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing to characterize bacterial communities harvested from the intestines of fasted and digesting snakes, and from their rodent meal. In this unprecedented survey of a reptilian host, we found that Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes numerically dominated the python gut. In the large intestine, fasting was associated with increased abundances of the genera Bacteroides, Rikenella, Synergistes and Akkermansia, and with reduced overall diversity. A marked postprandial shift in bacterial community configuration occurred. Between 12 h and 3 days after feeding, Firmicutes, including the taxa Clostridium, Lactobacillus and Peptostreptococcaceae, gradually outnumbered the fasting-dominant Bacteroidetes, and overall 'species'-level diversity increased significantly. Most lineages seemed to be indigenous to the python rather than ingested with the meal, but a dietary source of Lactobacillus could not be ruled out. Thus, the observed large-scale alterations of the gut microbiota that accompany the Burmese python's own dramatic physiological and morphological changes during feeding and fasting emphasize the need to consider both microbial and host cellular responses to nutrient flux. The Burmese python may provide a unique model for dissecting these interrelationships.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ismej.2010.71

    View details for Web of Science ID 000285793700003

    View details for PubMedID 20520652

  • Delivery mode shapes the acquisition and structure of the initial microbiota across multiple body habitats in newborns PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Dominguez-Bello, M. G., Costello, E. K., Contreras, M., Magris, M., Hidalgo, G., Fierer, N., Knight, R. 2010; 107 (26): 11971-11975


    Upon delivery, the neonate is exposed for the first time to a wide array of microbes from a variety of sources, including maternal bacteria. Although prior studies have suggested that delivery mode shapes the microbiota's establishment and, subsequently, its role in child health, most researchers have focused on specific bacterial taxa or on a single body habitat, the gut. Thus, the initiation stage of human microbiome development remains obscure. The goal of the present study was to obtain a community-wide perspective on the influence of delivery mode and body habitat on the neonate's first microbiota. We used multiplexed 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing to characterize bacterial communities from mothers and their newborn babies, four born vaginally and six born via Cesarean section. Mothers' skin, oral mucosa, and vagina were sampled 1 h before delivery, and neonates' skin, oral mucosa, and nasopharyngeal aspirate were sampled <5 min, and meconium <24 h, after delivery. We found that in direct contrast to the highly differentiated communities of their mothers, neonates harbored bacterial communities that were undifferentiated across multiple body habitats, regardless of delivery mode. Our results also show that vaginally delivered infants acquired bacterial communities resembling their own mother's vaginal microbiota, dominated by Lactobacillus, Prevotella, or Sneathia spp., and C-section infants harbored bacterial communities similar to those found on the skin surface, dominated by Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium, and Propionibacterium spp. These findings establish an important baseline for studies tracking the human microbiome's successional development in different body habitats following different delivery modes, and their associated effects on infant health.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1002601107

    View details for Web of Science ID 000279332300057

    View details for PubMedID 20566857

  • QIIME allows analysis of high-throughput community sequencing data NATURE METHODS Caporaso, J. G., Kuczynski, J., Stombaugh, J., Bittinger, K., Bushman, F. D., Costello, E. K., Fierer, N., Pena, A. G., Goodrich, J. K., Gordon, J. I., Huttley, G. A., Kelley, S. T., Knights, D., Koenig, J. E., Ley, R. E., Lozupone, C. A., McDonald, D., Muegge, B. D., Pirrung, M., Reeder, J., Sevinsky, J. R., Tumbaugh, P. J., Walters, W. A., Widmann, J., Yatsunenko, T., Zaneveld, J., Knight, R. 2010; 7 (5): 335-336

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nmeth.f.303

    View details for Web of Science ID 000277175100003

    View details for PubMedID 20383131

  • Forensic identification using skin bacterial communities PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Fierer, N., Lauber, C. L., Zhou, N., McDonald, D., Costello, E. K., Knight, R. 2010; 107 (14): 6477-6481


    Recent work has demonstrated that the diversity of skin-associated bacterial communities is far higher than previously recognized, with a high degree of interindividual variability in the composition of bacterial communities. Given that skin bacterial communities are personalized, we hypothesized that we could use the residual skin bacteria left on objects for forensic identification, matching the bacteria on the object to the skin-associated bacteria of the individual who touched the object. Here we describe a series of studies de-monstrating the validity of this approach. We show that skin-associated bacteria can be readily recovered from surfaces (including single computer keys and computer mice) and that the structure of these communities can be used to differentiate objects handled by different individuals, even if those objects have been left untouched for up to 2 weeks at room temperature. Furthermore, we demonstrate that we can use a high-throughput pyrosequencing-based ap-proach to quantitatively compare the bacterial communities on objects and skin to match the object to the individual with a high degree of certainty. Although additional work is needed to further establish the utility of this approach, this series of studies introduces a forensics approach that could eventually be used to independently evaluate results obtained using more traditional forensic practices.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1000162107

    View details for Web of Science ID 000276374400063

    View details for PubMedID 20231444

  • Direct sequencing of the human microbiome readily reveals community differences GENOME BIOLOGY Kuczynski, J., Costello, E. K., Nemergut, D. R., Zaneveld, J., Lauber, C. L., Knights, D., Koren, O., Fierer, N., Kelley, S. T., Ley, R. E., Gordon, J. I., Knight, R. 2010; 11 (5)


    Culture-independent studies of human microbiota by direct genomic sequencing reveal quite distinct differences among communities, indicating that improved sequencing capacity can be most wisely utilized to study more samples, rather than more sequences per sample.

    View details for DOI 10.1186/gb-2010-11-5-210

    View details for Web of Science ID 000279631000009

    View details for PubMedID 20441597

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2898070

  • Bacterial Community Variation in Human Body Habitats Across Space and Time SCIENCE Costello, E. K., Lauber, C. L., Hamady, M., Fierer, N., Gordon, J. I., Knight, R. 2009; 326 (5960): 1694-1697


    Elucidating the biogeography of bacterial communities on the human body is critical for establishing healthy baselines from which to detect differences associated with diseases. To obtain an integrated view of the spatial and temporal distribution of the human microbiota, we surveyed bacteria from up to 27 sites in seven to nine healthy adults on four occasions. We found that community composition was determined primarily by body habitat. Within habitats, interpersonal variability was high, whereas individuals exhibited minimal temporal variability. Several skin locations harbored more diverse communities than the gut and mouth, and skin locations differed in their community assembly patterns. These results indicate that our microbiota, although personalized, varies systematically across body habitats and time; such trends may ultimately reveal how microbiome changes cause or prevent disease.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1177486

    View details for Web of Science ID 000272839000053

    View details for PubMedID 19892944

  • Regulation of myocardial ketone body metabolism by the gut microbiota during nutrient deprivation PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Crawford, P. A., Crowley, J. R., Sambandam, N., Muegge, B. D., Costello, E. K., Hamady, M., Knight, R., Gordon, J. I. 2009; 106 (27): 11276-11281


    Studies in mice indicate that the gut microbiota promotes energy harvest and storage from components of the diet when these components are plentiful. Here we examine how the microbiota shapes host metabolic and physiologic adaptations to periods of nutrient deprivation. Germ-free (GF) mice and mice who had received a gut microbiota transplant from conventionally raised donors were compared in the fed and fasted states by using functional genomic, biochemical, and physiologic assays. A 24-h fast produces a marked change in gut microbial ecology. Short-chain fatty acids generated from microbial fermentation of available glycans are maintained at higher levels compared with GF controls. During fasting, a microbiota-dependent, Ppar alpha-regulated increase in hepatic ketogenesis occurs, and myocardial metabolism is directed to ketone body utilization. Analyses of heart rate, hydraulic work, and output, mitochondrial morphology, number, and respiration, plus ketone body, fatty acid, and glucose oxidation in isolated perfused working hearts from GF and colonized animals (combined with in vivo assessments of myocardial physiology) revealed that the fasted GF heart is able to sustain its performance by increasing glucose utilization, but heart weight, measured echocardiographically or as wet mass and normalized to tibial length or lean body weight, is significantly reduced in both fasted and fed mice. This myocardial-mass phenotype is completely reversed in GF mice by consumption of a ketogenic diet. Together, these results illustrate benefits provided by the gut microbiota during periods of nutrient deprivation, and emphasize the importance of further exploring the relationship between gut microbes and cardiovascular health.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0902366106

    View details for Web of Science ID 000267796100074

    View details for PubMedID 19549860

  • Soil CO2 flux and photoautotrophic community composition in high-elevation, 'barren' soil ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY Freeman, K. R., Pescador, M. Y., Reed, S. C., Costello, E. K., Robeson, M. S., Schmidt, S. K. 2009; 11 (3): 674-686


    Soil-dominated ecosystems, with little or no plant cover (i.e. deserts, polar regions, high-elevation areas and zones of glacial retreat), are often described as 'barren', despite their potential to host photoautotrophic microbial communities. In high-elevation, subnival zone soil (i.e. elevations higher than the zone of continuous vegetation), the structure and function of these photoautotrophic microbial communities remains essentially unknown. We measured soil CO(2) flux at three sites (above 3600 m) and used molecular techniques to determine the composition and distribution of soil photoautotrophs in the Colorado Front Range. Soil CO(2) flux data from 2002 and 2007 indicate that light-driven CO(2) uptake occurred on most dates. A diverse community of Cyanobacteria, Chloroflexi and eukaryotic algae was present in the top 2 cm of the soil, whereas these clades were nearly absent in deeper soils (2-4 cm). Cyanobacterial communities were composed of lineages most closely related to Microcoleus vaginatus and Phormidium murrayi, eukaryotic photoautotrophs were dominated by green algae, and three novel clades of Chloroflexi were also abundant in the surface soil. During the light hours of the 2007 snow-free measurement period, CO(2) uptake was conservatively estimated to be 23.7 g C m(-2) season(-1). Our study reveals that photoautotrophic microbial communities play an important role in the biogeochemical cycling of subnival zone soil.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2008.01844.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000263755700013

    View details for PubMedID 19187281

  • Fumarole-Supported Islands of Biodiversity within a Hyperarid, High-Elevation Landscape on Socompa Volcano, Puna de Atacama, Andes APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY Costello, E. K., Halloy, S. R., Reed, S. C., Sowell, P., Schmidt, S. K. 2009; 75 (3): 735-747


    Fumarolic activity supports the growth of mat-like photoautotrophic communities near the summit (at 6,051 m) of Socompa Volcano in the arid core of the Andes mountains. These communities are isolated within a barren, high-elevation landscape where sparse vascular plants extend to only 4,600 m. Here, we combine biogeochemical and molecular-phylogenetic approaches to characterize the bacterial and eucaryotic assemblages associated with fumarolic and nonfumarolic grounds on Socompa. Small-subunit rRNA genes were PCR amplified, cloned, and sequenced from two fumarolic soil samples and two reference soil samples, including the volcanic debris that covers most of the mountain. The nonfumarolic, dry, volcanic soil was similar in nutrient status to the most extreme Antarctic Dry Valley or Atacama Desert soils, hosted relatively limited microbial communities dominated by Actinobacteria and Fungi, and contained no photoautotrophs. In contrast, modest fumarolic inputs were associated with elevated soil moisture and nutrient levels, the presence of chlorophyll a, and (13)C-rich soil organic carbon. Moreover, this soil hosted diverse photoautotroph-dominated assemblages that contained novel lineages and exhibited structure and composition comparable to those of a wetland near the base of Socompa (3,661-m elevation). Fumarole-associated eucaryotes were particularly diverse, with an abundance of green algal lineages and a novel clade of microarthropods. Our data suggest that volcanic degassing of water and (13)C-rich CO(2) sustains fumarole-associated primary producers, leading to a complex microbial ecosystem within this otherwise barren landscape. Finally, we found that human activities have likely impacted the fumarolic soils and that fumarole-supported photoautotrophic communities may be exceptionally sensitive to anthropogenic disturbance.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/AEM.01469-08

    View details for Web of Science ID 000262690100024

    View details for PubMedID 19074608

  • Environmental DNA sequencing primers for eutardigrades and bdelloid rotifers. BMC ecology Robeson, M. S., Costello, E. K., Freeman, K. R., Whiting, J., Adams, B., Martin, A. P., Schmidt, S. K. 2009; 9: 25-?


    The time it takes to isolate individuals from environmental samples and then extract DNA from each individual is one of the problems with generating molecular data from meiofauna such as eutardigrades and bdelloid rotifers. The lack of consistent morphological information and the extreme abundance of these classes makes morphological identification of rare, or even common cryptic taxa a large and unwieldy task. This limits the ability to perform large-scale surveys of the diversity of these organisms.Here we demonstrate a culture-independent molecular survey approach that enables the generation of large amounts of eutardigrade and bdelloid rotifer sequence data directly from soil. Our PCR primers, specific to the 18s small-subunit rRNA gene, were developed for both eutardigrades and bdelloid rotifers.The developed primers successfully amplified DNA of their target organism from various soil DNA extracts. This was confirmed by both the BLAST similarity searches and phylogenetic analyses. Tardigrades showed much better phylogenetic resolution than bdelloids. Both groups of organisms exhibited varying levels of endemism.The development of clade-specific primers for characterizing eutardigrades and bdelloid rotifers from environmental samples should greatly increase our ability to characterize the composition of these taxa in environmental samples. Environmental sequencing as shown here differs from other molecular survey methods in that there is no need to pre-isolate the organisms of interest from soil in order to amplify their DNA. The DNA sequences obtained from methods that do not require culturing can be identified post-hoc and placed phylogenetically as additional closely related sequences are obtained from morphologically identified conspecifics. Our non-cultured environmental sequence based approach will be able to provide a rapid and large-scale screening of the presence, absence and diversity of Bdelloidea and Eutardigrada in a variety of soils.

    View details for DOI 10.1186/1472-6785-9-25

    View details for PubMedID 20003362

  • The earliest stages of ecosystem succession in high-elevation (5000 metres above sea level), recently deglaciated soils PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Schmidt, S. K., Reed, S. C., Nemergut, D. R., Grandy, A. S., Cleveland, C. C., Weintraub, M. N., Hill, A. W., Costello, E. K., Meyer, A. F., Neff, J. C., Martin, A. M. 2008; 275 (1653): 2793-2802


    Global climate change has accelerated the pace of glacial retreat in high-latitude and high-elevation environments, exposing lands that remain devoid of vegetation for many years. The exposure of 'new' soil is particularly apparent at high elevations (5000 metres above sea level) in the Peruvian Andes, where extreme environmental conditions hinder plant colonization. Nonetheless, these seemingly barren soils contain a diverse microbial community; yet the biogeochemical role of micro-organisms at these extreme elevations remains unknown. Using biogeochemical and molecular techniques, we investigated the biological community structure and ecosystem functioning of the pre-plant stages of primary succession in soils along a high-Andean chronosequence. We found that recently glaciated soils were colonized by a diverse community of cyanobacteria during the first 4-5 years following glacial retreat. This significant increase in cyanobacterial diversity corresponded with equally dramatic increases in soil stability, heterotrophic microbial biomass, soil enzyme activity and the presence and abundance of photosynthetic and photoprotective pigments. Furthermore, we found that soil nitrogen-fixation rates increased almost two orders of magnitude during the first 4-5 years of succession, many years before the establishment of mosses, lichens or vascular plants. Carbon analyses (pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy) of soil organic matter suggested that soil carbon along the chronosequence was of microbial origin. This indicates that inputs of nutrients and organic matter during early ecosystem development at these sites are dominated by microbial carbon and nitrogen fixation. Overall, our results indicate that photosynthetic and nitrogen-fixing bacteria play important roles in acquiring nutrients and facilitating ecological succession in soils near some of the highest elevation receding glaciers on the Earth.

    View details for DOI 10.1098/rspb.2008.0808

    View details for Web of Science ID 000260611200003

    View details for PubMedID 18755677

  • Biogeochemical consequences of rapid microbial turnover and seasonal succession in soil ECOLOGY Schmidt, S. K., Costello, E. K., Nemergut, D. R., Cleveland, C. C., Reed, S. C., Weintraub, M. N., Meyer, A. F., Martin, A. M. 2007; 88 (6): 1379-1385


    Soil microbial communities have the metabolic and genetic capability to adapt to changing environmental conditions on very short time scales. In this paper we combine biogeochemical and molecular approaches to reveal this potential, showing that microbial biomass can turn over on time scales of days to months in soil, resulting in a succession of microbial communities over the course of a year. This new understanding of the year-round turnover and succession of microbial communities allows us for the first time to propose a temporally explicit N cycle that provides mechanistic hypotheses to explain both the loss and retention of dissolved organic N (DON) and inorganic N (DIN) throughout the year in terrestrial ecosystems. In addition, our results strongly support the hypothesis that turnover of the microbial community is the largest source of DON and DIN for plant uptake during the plant growing season. While this model of microbial biogeochemistry is derived from observed dynamics in the alpine, we present several examples from other ecosystems to indicate that the general ideas of biogeochemical fluxes being linked to turnover and succession of microbial communities are applicable to a wide range of terrestrial ecosystems.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000247203100005

    View details for PubMedID 17601130

  • Microbial diversity in alpine tundra wet meadow soil: novel Chloroflexi from a cold, water-saturated environment ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY Costello, E. K., Schmidt, S. K. 2006; 8 (8): 1471-1486


    Cold, water-saturated soils play important biogeochemical roles, yet almost nothing is known about the identity and habitat of microbes active under such conditions. We investigated the year-round microenvironment of an alpine tundra wet meadow soil in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, focusing on the biogeochemistry and microbial diversity of spring snowmelt--a dynamic time for alpine ecosystems. In situ measurements revealed spring and autumn periods of long-term temperature stability near 0 degrees C, and that deeper soil (30 cm) was more stable than surface soil, with more moderate summers and winters, and longer isothermal phases. The soil was saturated and water availability was limited by freezing rather than drying. Analyses of bioavailable redox species showed a shift from Mn reduction to net Fe reduction at 2-3 cm depth, elevated SO4(2-) and decreased soluble Zn at spring snowmelt. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism profiles detected a correlated shift in bacterial community composition at the surface to subsurface transition. Bacterial and archaeal small-subunit rRNA genes were amplified from saturated spring soil DNA pooled along a depth profile. The most remarkable feature of these subsurface-biased libraries was the high relative abundance of novel, uncultivated Chloroflexi-related sequences comprising the third largest bacterial division sampled, and representing seven new Chloroflexi subdivisions, thereby dramatically expanding the known diversity of this bacterial division. We suggest that these novel Chloroflexi are active at near -0 degrees C temperatures, under likely anoxic conditions, and utilize geochemical inputs such as sulfide from upslope weathering.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2006.01041.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000238885300015

    View details for PubMedID 16872409

  • Structure and function of alpine and arctic soil microbial communities RESEARCH IN MICROBIOLOGY Nemergut, D. R., Costello, E. K., Meyer, A. F., Pescador, M. Y., Weintraub, M. N., Schmidt, S. K. 2005; 156 (7): 775-784


    Cultivation-independent molecular phylogenetic techniques are now widely employed to examine environmental microbial diversity; however, the relationship between microbial community structure and ecosystem function is unclear. This review synthesizes cultivation-independent views of microbiological diversity with our current understanding of nutrient dynamics in alpine and arctic soils. Recently, we have begun to explore connections between microbial community structure and function in soils from the alpine Niwot Ridge LTER site in Colorado, USA, whose ecology has been extensively investigated for over 50 years. We examined the diversity of bacterial, eucaryal, and archaeal small subunit rRNA genes in tundra and talus soils across seasons in the alpine. This work has provided support for spatial and seasonal shifts in specific microbial groups, which correlate well with previously documented transitions in microbial processes. In addition, these preliminary results suggest that the physiologies of certain groups of organisms may scale up to the ecosystem level, providing the basis for testable hypotheses about the function of specific microbes in this system. These studies have also expanded on the known diversity of life, as these soils harbor bacterial and eucaryotic lineages that are distantly related to other known organisms. In contrast to the alpine, microbial diversity in the arctic has been little explored; only three published studies have used molecular techniques to examine these soils. Because of the importance of these systems, particularly to the global C cycle, and their vulnerability to current and impending climate change, the microbial diversity of these soils needs to be further investigated.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.resmic.2005.03.004

    View details for Web of Science ID 000232098000001

    View details for PubMedID 15922566

  • The rate and pattern of cladogenesis in microbes EVOLUTION Martin, A. P., Costello, E. K., Meyer, A. F., Nemergut, D. R., Schmidt, S. K. 2004; 58 (5): 946-955


    Theories of macroevolution rarely have been extended to include microbes; however, because microbes represent the most ancient and diverse assemblage of organismal diversity, such oversight limits our understanding of evolutionary history. Our analysis of phylogenetic trees for microbes suggests that macroevolution may differ between prokaryotes and both micro- and macroeukaryotes (mainly plants and animals). Phylogenetic trees inferred for prokaryotes and some microbial eukaryotes conformed to expectations assuming a constant rate of cladogenesis over time and among lineages: nevertheless, microbial eukaryote trees exhibited more variation in rates of cladogenesis than prokaryote trees. We hypothesize that the contrast of macroevolutionary dynamics between prokaryotes and many eukaryotes is due, at least in part, to differences in the prevalence of lateral gene transfer (LGT) between the two groups. Inheritance is predominantly, if not wholly, vertical within eukaryotes, a feature that allows for the emergence and maintenance of heritable variation among lineages. By contrast, frequent LGT in prokaryotes may ameliorate heritable variation in rate of cladogenesis resulting from the emergence of key innovations; thus, the inferred difference in macroevolution might reflect exclusivity of key innovations in eukaryotes and their promiscuous nature in prokaryotes.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000221632700005

    View details for PubMedID 15212376