An introduction to microbiome analysis for human biology applications
Abstract Research examining the gut microbiota is currently exploding, and results are providing new perspectives on human biology. Factors such as host diet and physiology influence the composition and function of the gut microbiota, which in turn affects human nutrition, health, and behavior via interactions with metabolism, the immune system, and the brain. These findings represent an exciting new twist on familiar topics, and as a result, gut microbiome research is likely to provide insight into unresolved biological mechanisms driving human health. However, much remains to be learned about the broader ecological and evolutionary contexts within which gut microbes and humans are affecting each other. Here, I outline the procedures for generating data describing the gut microbiota with the goal of facilitating the wider integration of microbiome analyses into studies of human biology. I describe the steps involved in sample collection, DNA extraction, PCR amplification, high‐throughput sequencing, and bioinformatics. While this review serves only as an introduction to these topics, it provides sufficient resources for researchers interested in launching new microbiome initiatives. As knowledge of these methods spreads, microbiome analysis should become a standard tool in the arsenal of human biology research.
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