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Genome Res. 2012. 22: 2146-2152

Nurture trumps nature in a longitudinal survey of salivary bacterial communities in twins from early adolescence to early adulthood


Variation in the composition of the human oral microbiome in health and disease has been observed. We have characterized inter- and intra-individual variation of microbial communities of 107 individuals in one of the largest cohorts to date (264 saliva samples), using culture-independent 16S rRNA pyrosequencing. We examined the salivary microbiome in up to three time-points during 10 yr spanning adolescence, and determined the influence of human genotype, gender, age, and weight class. Participants, including 27 monozygotic and 18 dizygotic twin pairs, were sampled mainly at ages 12–13, 17–18, and 22–24, with a few sampled as early as 8 yr of age. In contrast to gut or skin microbiomes, there is a core genus-level salivary microbiome. Individuals are more similar to themselves and their co-twins in the 12–17 and in the 17–22 cohorts than to the whole sample population, but not over the 10 yr from 12 to 22; and monozygotic twin pairs are statistically not more similar than dizygotic twin pairs. The data are most consistent with shared environment serving as the main determinant of microbial populations. Twins resemble each other more closely than the whole population at all time-points, but become less similar to each other when they age and no longer cohabit. Several organisms have age-specific abundance profiles, including members of the genera Veillonella, Actinomyces, and Streptococcus. There is no clear effect of weight class and gender. The results of this work will provide a basis to further study oral microbes and human health.


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