Gut microbes, which help humans degrade otherwise indigestible plant material, acquire some crucial digestive enzyme genes from the bacteria in the food we eat, according to a study published this week in Nature. This new finding provides an example of horizontal gene transfer by which diet can influence the genetic diversity and functionality of the human gut microbiome.
Image: Wikimedia commons,
Alessandro Scotti
"It's a fascinating story," said microbiologist linkurl:Jeffrey Gordon; of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who did not participate in the study. "It shows that there's a dimension to human evolution that's occurring at the level of our gut microbiome." "This is an exciting development," agreed microbiologist linkurl:Justin Sonnenburg; of Stanford University School of Medicine, who also was not involved in the research. "I think we're at the tip of the iceberg here. Human diet is so diverse, I think that we're just getting...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?