Gene-microbiome interactions are important in aetiology and pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease, a chronic inflammatory disorder of the gastrointestinal tract consisting of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Scarce studies on gene-microbiome interactions show very little overlap in their results. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that gene-microbiome studies are repeated. We aimed to replicate the association between the SLC39A8[Thr]391 risk allele and gut microbiome composition in patients with inflammatory bowel disease and healthy controls.
We collected faecal samples, peripheral blood and extensive phenotype data from 291 patients with inflammatory bowel disease and 476 healthy controls. Carrier status information was obtained from whole exome sequencing data, generated using the Illumina HiSeq. The gut microbiome composition was determined by tag-sequencing the 16S rRNA gene. Associations between carrier status and disease were tested using the Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test. Associations between carriers and gut microbiome composition were determined using principal coordinate analyses, variance explained, alpha diversity and additive general linear models in inflammatory bowel disease, healthy controls and all groups combined.
Crohn's disease patients were more often carriers of the missense variant (21/171, 12.3%) than controls (30/476, 6.3%) (OR = 2.1, P = 0.01). We could not identify associations between carrier status and overall gut microbiome composition and microbial richness in all tested groups after correcting for potential confounding factors. We did identify 37 different operational taxonomical units to be associated with carrier status among the tested groups. Two of these 37 were identified before in the discovery study.
We could confirm the genetic association of the SLC39A8[Thr]391 risk allele with Crohn's disease but we could only limited replicate the association in gut microbiome composition. Independent replication of gene-microbiome studies is warranted to identify true biological mechanisms.