Individual diet has sex-dependent effects on vertebrate gut microbiota

Daniel I. Bolnick, Lisa K. Snowberg, Philipp E. Hirsch, Christian L. Lauber, Elin Org, Brian Parks, Aldons J. Lusis, Rob Knight, J. Gregory Caporaso, Richard Svanbäck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

408 Scopus citations


Vertebrates harbour diverse communities of symbiotic gut microbes. Host diet is known to alter microbiota composition, implying that dietary treatments might alleviate diseases arising from altered microbial composition (ẫ dysbiosisâ(tm)). However, it remains unclear whether diet effects are general or depend on host genotype. Here we show that gut microbiota composition depends on interactions between host diet and sex within populations of wild and laboratory fish, laboratory mice and humans. Within each of two natural fish populations (threespine stickleback and Eurasian perch), among-individual diet variation is correlated with individual differences in gut microbiota. However, these diet-microbiota associations are sex dependent. We document similar sex-specific diet-microbiota correlations in humans. Experimental diet manipulations in laboratory stickleback and mice confirmed that diet affects microbiota differently in males versus females. The prevalence of such genotype by environment (sex by diet) interactions implies that therapies to treat dysbiosis might have sex-specific effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4500
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - Jul 29 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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