Relationships between gut microbiota, plasma metabolites, and metabolic syndrome traits in the METSIM cohort

Elin Org*, Yuna Blum, Silva Kasela, Margarete Mehrabian, Johanna Kuusisto, Antti J. Kangas, Pasi Soininen, Zeneng Wang, Mika Ala-Korpela, Stanley L. Hazen, Markku Laakso, Aldons J. Lusis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

236 Citations (Scopus)
464 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The gut microbiome is a complex and metabolically active community that directly influences host phenotypes. In this study, we profile gut microbiota using 16S rRNA gene sequencing in 531 well-phenotyped Finnish men from the Metabolic Syndrome In Men (METSIM) study. Results: We investigate gut microbiota relationships with a variety of factors that have an impact on the development of metabolic and cardiovascular traits. We identify novel associations between gut microbiota and fasting serum levels of a number of metabolites, including fatty acids, amino acids, lipids, and glucose. In particular, we detect associations with fasting plasma trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) levels, a gut microbiota-dependent metabolite associated with coronary artery disease and stroke. We further investigate the gut microbiota composition and microbiota-metabolite relationships in subjects with different body mass index and individuals with normal or altered oral glucose tolerance. Finally, we perform microbiota co-occurrence network analysis, which shows that certain metabolites strongly correlate with microbial community structure and that some of these correlations are specific for the pre-diabetic state. Conclusions: Our study identifies novel relationships between the composition of the gut microbiota and circulating metabolites and provides a resource for future studies to understand host-gut microbiota relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Article number70
JournalGenome Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2017


  • Host-microbiota interactions
  • Metabolic traits
  • Serum metabolites
  • TMAO
  • Type 2 diabetes


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