The human ‘metagenome’ is a composite of Homo sapiens genes and genes present in the genomes of the trillions of microbes that colonize our adult bodies (the ‘microbiome’). Our largest collection of microbes resides in the gut, where an estimated 10-100 trillion organisms reside (the gut microbiota). The gut microbiome encodes metabolic capacities that remain largely unexplored but include the degradation of otherwise indigestible components of our diet.
Our recent metagenomic analyses of humans and mice have revealed linkages between diet, the gut microbiome, and host energy balance. However, despite the recent surge in human gut microbiome research, a number of basic questions regarding the assembly, structure, and functional operations of the gut microbiome remain unanswered. Currently, our major research focus involves the development and application of computational and experimental tools for understanding how the gut microbiome impacts nutrition and drug metabolism. Together, these studies may lead to a more comprehensive view of human metabolism, and to new strategies for personalized medicine or nutrition.