Project abstract for group blekhman

Genomics of Host-Microbiome Interactions

With the advent of next generation sequencing, it has become possible to examine entire genome and transcriptome of humans and other animals with relative ease. These data have been used to validate previously discovered biological mechanisms as well as to discover new phenomena that are implicated in diseases, such as cancer. This technological advance has also opened up new research possibilities by allowing scientists to survey and quantify the microbiome, the collection of microorganisms that reside in and on the bodies of humans and other animals. Again, researchers have leveraged this new source of information to make breakthroughs in human disease that are caused by alterations in the microbiome, including diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity. Although the human microbiome is influenced by environmental factors, bacteria also interact with human cells through immune system and metabolic pathways. 

This group's research aims to understand and characterize host-microbiome interactions in a variety of conditions. They have several ongoing projects, aiming to answer the following biological questions:

  • What are the molecular mechanisms controlling host-bacteria interactions? Which genes and pathways are involved in both the host and microbiome side?
  • How does host genetic variation control interactions with our microbiome? What are the effects of different environments and genetic backgrounds across human populations?
  • How did the complex symbiosis between us and our microbiome evolve throughout human history? Can we identify signatures of coevolution in human and microbial genomes?
  • How do host-microbiome interactions control susceptibility to complex disease? What are the unique roles of host genetics, bacterial communities, and environmental exposures?

Each of these research projects involves analyses of large genomic and metagenomic datasets using resources from MSI, including installed software, CPU time, storage space, and the parallel computing environment.

This research was featured in a Research Spotlight on the MSI website in October 2015.

Return to this PI's main page.