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Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

For a paper appearing in Nature Communications, a University of Nebraska team describes genetic loci in the sorghum plant Sorghum bicolor that correspond to altered gut microbial community composition or function in humans consuming the grain. Based on in vitro grain fermentation experiments done with microbes from the human gut, together with genomic data spanning almost 300 recombinant inbred sorghum plant lines, the researchers flagged 10 sorghum genetic loci that appear to impact the taxa found in a microbial community or the metabolites these microbes produce, including sorghum loci falling in condensed tannin biosynthesis regulatory genes. "Our study highlights how existing genetic resource populations of food crop species can be exploited for co-analysis of seed traits and microbiome traits to efficiently pinpoint candidate loci and pathways through which genetic variation can affect the human gut microbiome," the authors note. "Ultimately, this approach will pave the way to incorporate microbiome traits into crop improvement programs to improve human health."