Genomic diversity and ecology of human-associated Akkermansia species in the gut microbiome revealed by extensive metagenomic assembly

Nicolai Karcher, Eleonora Nigro, Michal Punčochář, Aitor Blanco-Míguez, Matteo Ciciani, Paolo Manghi, Moreno Zolfo, Fabio Cumbo, Serena Manara, Davide Golzato, Anna Cereseto, Manimozhiyan Arumugam, Thi Phuong Nam Bui, Hanne L.P. Tytgat, Mireia Valles-Colomer, Willem M. de Vos, Nicola Segata*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Akkermansia muciniphila is a human gut microbe with a key role in the physiology of the intestinal mucus layer and reported associations with decreased body mass and increased gut barrier function and health. Despite its biomedical relevance, the genomic diversity of A. muciniphila remains understudied and that of closely related species, except for A. glycaniphila, unexplored. Results: We present a large-scale population genomics analysis of the Akkermansia genus using 188 isolate genomes and 2226 genomes assembled from 18,600 metagenomes from humans and other animals. While we do not detect A. glycaniphila, the Akkermansia strains in the human gut can be grouped into five distinct candidate species, including A. muciniphila, that show remarkable whole-genome divergence despite surprisingly similar 16S rRNA gene sequences. These candidate species are likely human-specific, as they are detected in mice and non-human primates almost exclusively when kept in captivity. In humans, Akkermansia candidate species display ecological co-exclusion, diversified functional capabilities, and distinct patterns of associations with host body mass. Analysis of CRISPR-Cas loci reveals new variants and spacers targeting newly discovered putative bacteriophages. Remarkably, we observe an increased relative abundance of Akkermansia when cognate predicted bacteriophages are present, suggesting ecological interactions. A. muciniphila further exhibits subspecies-level genetic stratification with associated functional differences such as a putative exo/lipopolysaccharide operon. Conclusions: We uncover a large phylogenetic and functional diversity of the Akkermansia genus in humans. This variability should be considered in the ongoing experimental and metagenomic efforts to characterize the health-associated properties of A. muciniphila and related bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Article number209
JournalGenome Biology
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2021

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