Curtis Huttenhower

Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (23)318.26 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: From 27-29 October 2014, more than 100 people gathered in Chicago, IL, to participate in a research symposium titled "Diabetes and the Microbiome," jointly sponsored by the American Diabetes Association and JDRF. The conference brought together international scholars and trainees from multiple disciplines, including microbiology, bioinformatics, endocrinology, metabolism, and immunology, to share the current understanding of host-microbe interactions and their influences on diabetes and metabolism. Notably, this gathering was the first to assemble specialists with distinct expertise in type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, immunology, and microbiology with the goal of discussing and defining potential pathophysiologies linking the microbiome and diabetes. In addition to reviewing existing evidence in the field, speakers presented their own original research to provide a comprehensive view of the current understanding of the topics under discussion.Presentations and discussions throughout the conference reflected a number of important concepts. The microbiota in any host represent a complex ecosystem with a high degree of interindividual variability. Different microbial communities, comprising bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi, occupy separate niches in and on the human body. Individually and collectively, these microbes provide benefits to the host-including nutrient harvest from food and protection against pathogens. They are dynamically regulated by both host genes and the environment, and they critically influence both physiology and lifelong health. The objective of the symposium was to discuss the relationship between the host and the microbiome-the combination of microbiota and their biomolecular environment and ecology-specifically with regard to metabolic and immunological systems and to define the critical research needed to understand and potentially target the microbiome in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. In this report, we present meeting highlights in the following areas: 1) relationships between diabetes and the microbiome, 2) bioinformatic tools, resources, and study design considerations, 3) microbial programming of the immune system, 4) the microbiome and energy balance, 5) interventions, and 6) limitations, unanswered questions, and resource and policy needs.
    Preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Diabetes
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    ABSTRACT: Colonization by Lactobacillus in the female genital tract is thought to be critical for maintaining genital health. However, little is known about how genital microbiota influence host immune function and modulate disease susceptibility. We studied a cohort of asymptomatic young South African women and found that the majority of participants had genital communities with low Lactobacillus abundance and high ecological diversity. High-diversity communities strongly correlated with genital pro-inflammatory cytokine concentrations in both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. Transcriptional profiling suggested that genital antigen-presenting cells sense gram-negative bacterial products in situ via Toll-like receptor 4 signaling, contributing to genital inflammation through activation of the NF-κB signaling pathway and recruitment of lymphocytes by chemokine production. Our study proposes a mechanism by which cervicovaginal microbiota impact genital inflammation and thereby might affect a woman's reproductive health, including her risk of acquiring HIV. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · Immunity
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    ABSTRACT: High-throughput DNA sequencing has proven invaluable for investigating diverse environmental and host-associated microbial communities. In this Review, we discuss emerging strategies for microbial community analysis that complement and expand traditional metagenomic profiling. These include novel DNA sequencing strategies for identifying strain-level microbial variation and community temporal dynamics; measuring multiple 'omic' data types that better capture community functional activity, such as transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics; and combining multiple forms of omic data in an integrated framework. We highlight studies in which the 'multi-omics' approach has led to improved mechanistic models of microbial community structure and function.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · Nature Reviews Microbiology
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    ABSTRACT: The human microbiome has become a recognized factor in promoting and maintaining health. We outline opportunities in interdisciplinary research, analytical rigor, standardization, and policy development for this relatively new and rapidly developing field. Advances in these aspects of the research community may in turn advance our understanding of human microbiome biology.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · Cell
  • Xochitl C. Morgan · Curtis Huttenhower
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    ABSTRACT: Nucleotide sequencing has become increasingly common and affordable, and is now a vital tool for studies of the human microbiome. Comprehensive microbial community surveys such as MetaHit and the Human Microbiome Project have described the composition and molecular functional profile of the healthy (normal) intestinal microbiome. This knowledge will increase our ability to analyze host and microbial DNA (genome) and RNA (transcriptome) sequences. Bioinformatic and statistical tools can then be used to identify dysbioses that might cause disease, and potential treatments. Analyses that identify perturbations in specific molecules can leverage thousands of culture-based isolate genomes to contextualize culture-independent sequences, or may integrate sequence data with whole-community functional assays such as metaproteomic or metabolomic analyses. We review the state of available systems-level models for studies of the intestinal microbiome, along with analytic techniques and tools that can be used to determine its functional capabilities in healthy and unhealthy individuals.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2014 · Gastroenterology
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    ABSTRACT: Bacteria that cause disease rely on their ability to counteract and overcome host defenses. Here, we present a genome-scale study of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) that uncovers the bacterial determinants of surviving host immunity, sets of genes we term "counteractomes." Through this analysis, we found that CD4 T cells attempt to contain Mtb growth by starving it of tryptophan-a mechanism that successfully limits infections by Chlamydia and Leishmania, natural tryptophan auxotrophs. Mtb, however, can synthesize tryptophan under stress conditions, and thus, starvation fails as an Mtb-killing mechanism. We then identify a small-molecule inhibitor of Mtb tryptophan synthesis, which converts Mtb into a tryptophan auxotroph and restores the efficacy of a failed host defense. Together, our findings demonstrate that the Mtb immune counteractomes serve as probes of host immunity, uncovering immune-mediated stresses that can be leveraged for therapeutic discovery. PAPERFLICK:
    Preview · Article · Dec 2013 · Cell
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    ABSTRACT: Complex microbial communities are an integral part of the Earth's ecosystem and of our bodies in health and disease. In the last two decades, culture-independent approaches have provided new insights into their structure and function, with the exponentially decreasing cost of high-throughput sequencing resulting in broadly available tools for microbial surveys. However, the field remains far from reaching a technological plateau, as both computational techniques and nucleotide sequencing platforms for microbial genomic and transcriptional content continue to improve. Current microbiome analyses are thus starting to adopt multiple and complementary meta'omic approaches, leading to unprecedented opportunities to comprehensively and accurately characterize microbial communities and their interactions with their environments and hosts. This diversity of available assays, analysis methods, and public data is in turn beginning to enable microbiome-based predictive and modeling tools. We thus review here the technological and computational meta'omics approaches that are already available, those that are under active development, their success in biological discovery, and several outstanding challenges.
    Full-text · Article · May 2013 · Molecular Systems Biology
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a devastating intestinal disease that afflicts 10% of extremely preterm infants. The contribution of early intestinal colonization to NEC onset is not understood, and predictive biomarkers to guide prevention are lacking. We analyzed banked stool and urine samples collected prior to disease onset from infants <29 weeks gestational age, including 11 infants who developed NEC and 21 matched controls who survived free of NEC. Stool bacterial communities were profiled by 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Urinary metabolomic profiles were assessed by NMR. Results: During postnatal days 4 to 9, samples from infants who later developed NEC tended towards lower alpha-diversity (Chao1 index, p=0.086) and lacked Propionibacterium (p=0.009) compared to controls. Furthermore, NEC was preceded by distinct forms of dysbiosis. During days 4 to 9, samples from four NEC cases were dominated by members of the Firmicutes (median relative abundance: >99% vs <17% in the remaining NEC and controls, p<0.001). During postnatal days 10 to 16, samples from the remaining NEC cases were dominated by Proteobacteria, specifically Enterobacteriaceae (median relative abundance >99% vs 38% in the other NEC cases and 84% in controls, p=0.01). NEC preceded by Firmicutes dysbiosis occurred earlier (onset, days 7 to 21) than NEC preceded by Proteobacteria dysbiosis (onset, days 19 to 39). All NEC cases lacked Propionibacterium and were preceded by either Firmicutes (>98% relative abundance, days 4 to 9) or Proteobacteria (>90% relative abundance, days 10 to 16) dysbiosis, while only 25% of controls had this phenotype (predictive value 88%, p=0.001). Analysis of days 4 to 9 urine samples found no metabolites associated with all NEC cases, but alanine was positively associated with NEC cases that were preceded by Firmicutes dysbiosis (p<0.001) and histidine was inversely associated with NEC cases preceded by Proteobacteria dysbiosis (p=0.013). A high urinary alanine:histidine ratio was associated with microbial characteristics (p<0.001) and provided good prediction of overall NEC (predictive value 78%, p=0.007). Conclusions: Early dysbiosis is strongly involved in the pathobiology of NEC. These striking findings require validation in larger studies but indicate that early microbial and metabolomic signatures may provide highly predictive biomarkers of NEC.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2013
  • Andrea D. Tyler · Curtis Huttenhower · Dirk Gevers · Mark S. Silverberg

    No preview · Article · Feb 2013 · Gastroenterology

  • No preview · Article · Feb 2013 · Gastroenterology
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    ABSTRACT: This article introduces a manually curated data collection for gene expression meta-analysis of patients with ovarian cancer and software for reproducible preparation of similar databases. This resource provides uniformly prepared microarray data for 2970 patients from 23 studies with curated and documented clinical metadata. It allows users to efficiently identify studies and patient subgroups of interest for analysis and to perform meta-analysis immediately without the challenges posed by harmonizing heterogeneous microarray technologies, study designs, expression data processing methods and clinical data formats. We confirm that the recently proposed biomarker CXCL12 is associated with patient survival, independently of stage and optimal surgical debulking, which was possible only through meta-analysis owing to insufficient sample sizes of the individual studies. The database is implemented as the curatedOvarianData Bioconductor package for the R statistical computing language, providing a comprehensive and flexible resource for clinically oriented investigation of the ovarian cancer transcriptome. The package and pipeline for producing it are available from http://bcb.dfci.harvard.edu/ovariancancer. Database URL: http://bcb.dfci.harvard.edu/ovariancancer
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2013 · Database The Journal of Biological Databases and Curation
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    Xochitl C Morgan · Curtis Huttenhower
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    ABSTRACT: Humans are essentially sterile during gestation, but during and after birth, every body surface, including the skin, mouth, and gut, becomes host to an enormous variety of microbes, bacterial, archaeal, fungal, and viral. Under normal circumstances, these microbes help us to digest our food and to maintain our immune systems, but dysfunction of the human microbiota has been linked to conditions ranging from inflammatory bowel disease to antibiotic-resistant infections. Modern high-throughput sequencing and bioinformatic tools provide a powerful means of understanding the contribution of the human microbiome to health and its potential as a target for therapeutic interventions. This chapter will first discuss the historical origins of microbiome studies and methods for determining the ecological diversity of a microbial community. Next, it will introduce shotgun sequencing technologies such as metagenomics and metatranscriptomics, the computational challenges and methods associated with these data, and how they enable microbiome analysis. Finally, it will conclude with examples of the functional genomics of the human microbiome and its influences upon health and disease.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2012 · PLoS Computational Biology
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    Xochitl C Morgan · Nicola Segata · Curtis Huttenhower
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    ABSTRACT: Over the course of our lives, humans are colonized by a tremendous diversity of commensal microbes, which comprise the human microbiome. The collective genetic potential (metagenome) of the human microbiome is orders of magnitude more than the human genome, and it profoundly affects human health and disease in ways we are only beginning to understand. Advances in computing and high-throughput sequencing have enabled population-level surveys such as MetaHIT and the recently released Human Microbiome Project, detailed investigations of the microbiome in human disease, and mechanistic studies employing gnotobiotic model organisms. The resulting knowledge of human microbiome composition, function, and range of variation across multiple body sites has begun to assemble a rich picture of commensal host-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions as well as their roles in human health and disease and their potential as diagnostic and therapeutic tools.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · Trends in Genetics
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    Dirk Gevers · Mihai Pop · Patrick D Schloss · Curtis Huttenhower
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    ABSTRACT: Microbes inhabit virtually all sites of the human body, yet we know very little about the role they play in our health. In recent years, there has been increasing interest in studying human-associated microbial communities, particularly since microbial dysbioses have now been implicated in a number of human diseases [1]–[3]. Dysbiosis, the disruption of the normal microbial community structure, however, is impossible to define without first establishing what “normal microbial community structure” means within the healthy human microbiome. Recent advances in sequencing technologies have made it feasible to perform large-scale studies of microbial communities, providing the tools necessary to begin to address this question [4], [5]. This led to the implementation of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) in 2007, an initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health Roadmap for Biomedical Research and constructed as a large, genome-scale community research project [6]. Any such project must plan for data analysis, computational methods development, and the public availability of tools and data; here, we provide an overview of the corresponding bioinformatics organization, history, and results from the HMP (Figure 1).
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · PLoS Computational Biology
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    ABSTRACT: Background The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis result from alterations in intestinal microbes and the immune system. However, the precise dysfunctions of microbial metabolism in the gastrointestinal microbiome during IBD remain unclear. We analyzed the microbiota of intestinal biopsies and stool samples from 231 IBD and healthy subjects by 16S gene pyrosequencing and followed up a subset using shotgun metagenomics. Gene and pathway composition were assessed, based on 16S data from phylogenetically-related reference genomes, and associated using sparse multivariate linear modeling with medications, environmental factors, and IBD status. Results Firmicutes and Enterobacteriaceae abundances were associated with disease status as expected, but also with treatment and subject characteristics. Microbial function, though, was more consistently perturbed than composition, with 12% of analyzed pathways changed compared with 2% of genera. We identified major shifts in oxidative stress pathways, as well as decreased carbohydrate metabolism and amino acid biosynthesis in favor of nutrient transport and uptake. The microbiome of ileal Crohn's disease was notable for increases in virulence and secretion pathways. Conclusions This inferred functional metagenomic information provides the first insights into community-wide microbial processes and pathways that underpin IBD pathogenesis.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2012 · Genome biology
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    ABSTRACT: Author Summary The significant rise in drug resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis has highlighted the need for new drug targets. Here, we present a novel method of defining genetic elements required for optimal growth, a key first step for identifying potential drug targets. Similar strategies in other bacterial pathogens have traditionally defined a set of essential protein-coding genes. Bacterial genomes, however, contain many other genetic elements, such as small RNAs and non-coding regulatory sequences. Protein-coding genes themselves also often encode more than one functional element, as in the case of multi-domain genes. Therefore, instead of assessing the quantitative requirement of whole genes, we parsed the genome into comprehensive sets of overlapping windows, unbiased by annotation, and scanned the entire genome for regions required for optimal growth. These required regions include whole genes, as expected; but we also discovered genes that contained both required and non-required domains, as well as non protein-coding RNAs required for optimal growth. By expanding our search for required genetic elements, we show that Mycobacterium tuberculosis has a complex genome and discover potential drug targets beyond the more limited set of essential genes.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2012 · PLoS Pathogens
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    ABSTRACT: A variety of microbial communities and their genes (the microbiome) exist throughout the human body, with fundamental roles in human health and disease. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Human Microbiome Project Consortium has established a population-scale framework to develop metagenomic protocols, resulting in a broad range of quality-controlled resources and data including standardized methods for creating, processing and interpreting distinct types of high-throughput metagenomic data available to the scientific community. Here we present resources from a population of 242 healthy adults sampled at 15 or 18 body sites up to three times, which have generated 5,177 microbial taxonomic profiles from 16S ribosomal RNA genes and over 3.5 terabases of metagenomic sequence so far. In parallel, approximately 800 reference strains isolated from the human body have been sequenced. Collectively, these data represent the largest resource describing the abundance and variety of the human microbiome, while providing a framework for current and future studies.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2012 · Nature
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    ABSTRACT: As metagenomic studies continue to increase in their number, sequence volume and complexity, the scalability of biological analysis frameworks has become a rate-limiting factor to meaningful data interpretation. To address this issue, we have developed JCVI Metagenomics Reports (METAREP) as an open source tool to query, browse, and compare extremely large volumes of metagenomic annotations. Here we present improvements to this software including the implementation of a dynamic weighting of taxonomic and functional annotation, support for distributed searches, advanced clustering routines, and integration of additional annotation input formats. The utility of these improvements to data interpretation are demonstrated through the application of multiple comparative analysis strategies to shotgun metagenomic data produced by the National Institutes of Health Roadmap for Biomedical Research Human Microbiome Project (HMP) (http://nihroadmap.nih.gov). Specifically, the scalability of the dynamic weighting feature is evaluated and established by its application to the analysis of over 400 million weighted gene annotations derived from 14 billion short reads as predicted by the HMP Unified Metabolic Analysis Network (HUMAnN) pipeline. Further, the capacity of METAREP to facilitate the identification and simultaneous comparison of taxonomic and functional annotations including biological pathway and individual enzyme abundances from hundreds of community samples is demonstrated by providing scenarios that describe how these data can be mined to answer biological questions related to the human microbiome. These strategies provide users with a reference of how to conduct similar large-scale metagenomic analyses using METAREP with their own sequence data, while in this study they reveal insights into the nature and extent of variation in taxonomic and functional profiles across body habitats and individuals. Over one thousand HMP WGS datasets and the latest open source code are available at http://www.jcvi.org/hmp-metarep.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2012 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: Studies of the human microbiome have revealed that even healthy individuals differ remarkably in the microbes that occupy habitats such as the gut, skin and vagina. Much of this diversity remains unexplained, although diet, environment, host genetics and early microbial exposure have all been implicated. Accordingly, to characterize the ecology of human-associated microbial communities, the Human Microbiome Project has analysed the largest cohort and set of distinct, clinically relevant body habitats so far. We found the diversity and abundance of each habitat's signature microbes to vary widely even among healthy subjects, with strong niche specialization both within and among individuals. The project encountered an estimated 81-99% of the genera, enzyme families and community configurations occupied by the healthy Western microbiome. Metagenomic carriage of metabolic pathways was stable among individuals despite variation in community structure, and ethnic/racial background proved to be one of the strongest associations of both pathways and microbes with clinical metadata. These results thus delineate the range of structural and functional configurations normal in the microbial communities of a healthy population, enabling future characterization of the epidemiology, ecology and translational applications of the human microbiome.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2012 · Nature
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    ABSTRACT: While current major national research efforts (i.e., the NIH Human Microbiome Project) will enable comprehensive metagenomic characterization of the adult human microbiota, how and when these diverse microbial communities take up residence in the host and during reproductive life are unexplored at a population level. Because microbial abundance and diversity might differ in pregnancy, we sought to generate comparative metagenomic signatures across gestational age strata. DNA was isolated from the vagina (introitus, posterior fornix, midvagina) and the V5V3 region of bacterial 16S rRNA genes were sequenced (454FLX Titanium platform). Sixty-eight samples from 24 healthy gravidae (18 to 40 confirmed weeks) were compared with 301 non-pregnant controls (60 subjects). Generated sequence data were quality filtered, taxonomically binned, normalized, and organized by phylogeny and into operational taxonomic units (OTU); principal coordinates analysis (PCoA) of the resultant beta diversity measures were used for visualization and analysis in association with sample clinical metadata. Altogether, 1.4 gigabytes of data containing >2.5 million reads (averaging 6,837 sequences/sample of 493 nt in length) were generated for computational analyses. Although gravidae were not excluded by virtue of a posterior fornix pH >4.5 at the time of screening, unique vaginal microbiome signature encompassing several specific OTUs and higher-level clades was nevertheless observed and confirmed using a combination of phylogenetic, non-phylogenetic, supervised, and unsupervised approaches. Both overall diversity and richness were reduced in pregnancy, with dominance of Lactobacillus species (L. iners crispatus, jensenii and johnsonii, and the orders Lactobacillales (and Lactobacillaceae family), Clostridiales, Bacteroidales, and Actinomycetales. This intergroup comparison using rigorous standardized sampling protocols and analytical methodologies provides robust initial evidence that the vaginal microbial 16S rRNA gene catalogue uniquely differs in pregnancy, with variance of taxa across vaginal subsite and gestational age.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2012 · PLoS ONE

Publication Stats

3k Citations
318.26 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2012-2015
    • Harvard University
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2012-2013
    • Harvard Medical School
      • Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States