Metataxonomic Analysis of Individuals at BMI Extremes and Monozygotic Twins Discordant for BMI

Casey T. Finnicum, Stieneke Doornweerd, Conor V. Dolan, Justin M. Luningham, Jeffrey J. Beck, Gonneke Willemsen, Erik A. Ehli, Dorret I. Boomsma, Richard G. Ijzerman, Gareth E. Davies, Eco J.C. De Geus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: The human gut microbiota has been demonstrated to be associated with a number of host phenotypes, including obesity and a number of obesity-Associated phenotypes. This study is aimed at further understanding and describing the relationship between the gut microbiota and obesity-Associated measurements obtained from human participants. Subjects/Methods: Here, we utilize genetically informative study designs, including a four-corners design (extremes of genetic risk for BMI and of observed BMI; N = 50) and the BMI monozygotic (MZ) discordant twin pair design (N = 30), in order to help delineate the role of host genetics and the gut microbiota in the development of obesity. Results: Our results highlight a negative association between BMI and alpha diversity of the gut microbiota. The low genetic risk/high BMI group of individuals had a lower gut microbiota alpha diversity when compared to the other three groups. Although the difference in alpha diversity between the lean and heavy groups of the BMI-discordant MZ twin design did not achieve significance, this difference was observed to be in the expected direction, with the heavier participants having a lower average alpha diversity. We have also identified nine OTUs observed to be associated with either a leaner or heavier phenotype, with enrichment for OTUs classified to the Ruminococcaceae and Oxalobacteraceae taxonomic families. Conclusion: Our study presents evidence of a relationship between BMI and alpha diversity of the gut microbiota. In addition to these findings, a number of OTUs were found to be significantly associated with host BMI. These findings may highlight separate subtypes of obesity, one driven by genetic factors, the other more heavily influenced by environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-213
Number of pages11
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • gut microbiota
  • obesity
  • twins

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


Dive into the research topics of 'Metataxonomic Analysis of Individuals at BMI Extremes and Monozygotic Twins Discordant for BMI'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this