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BMC Genomics. 2016 Nov 21;17(1):941.

ABO antigen and secretor statuses are not associated with gut microbiota composition in 1,500 twins.

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Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.
Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.
Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, King's College London, London, UK.
Department of Microbiome Science, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübigen, Germany.



Host genetics is one of several factors known to shape human gut microbiome composition, however, the physiological processes underlying the heritability are largely unknown. Inter-individual differences in host factors secreted into the gut lumen may lead to variation in microbiome composition. One such factor is the ABO antigen. This molecule is not only expressed on the surface of red blood cells, but is also secreted from mucosal surfaces in individuals containing an intact FUT2 gene (secretors). Previous studies report differences in microbiome composition across ABO and secretor genotypes. However, due to methodological limitations, the specific bacterial taxa involved remain unknown.


Here, we sought to determine the relationship of the microbiota to ABO blood group and secretor status in a large panel of 1503 individuals from a cohort of twins from the United Kingdom. Contrary to previous reports, robust associations between either ABO or secretor phenotypes and gut microbiome composition were not detected. Overall community structure, diversity, and the relative abundances of individual taxa were not significantly associated with ABO or secretor status. Additionally, joint-modeling approaches were unsuccessful in identifying combinations of taxa that were predictive of ABO or secretor status.


Despite previous reports, the taxonomic composition of the microbiota does not appear to be strongly associated with ABO or secretor status in 1503 individuals from the United Kingdom. These results highlight the importance of replicating microbiome-associated traits in large, well-powered cohorts to ensure results are robust.


ABO; Blood group antigens; FUT2; Heritability; Microbiome; Secretor status

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