Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

Genetic influences on the human oral microbiome.

  • Author(s): Demmitt, Brittany A
  • Corley, Robin P
  • Huibregtse, Brooke M
  • Keller, Matthew C
  • Hewitt, John K
  • McQueen, Matthew B
  • Knight, Rob
  • McDermott, Ivy
  • Krauter, Kenneth S
  • et al.


The human oral microbiome is formed early in development. Its composition is influenced by environmental factors including diet, substance use, oral health, and overall health and disease. The influence of human genes on the composition and stability of the oral microbiome is still poorly understood. We studied both environmental and genetic characteristics on the oral microbiome in a large twin sample as well as in a large cohort of unrelated individuals. We identify several significantly heritable features of the oral microbiome. The heritability persists in twins even when their cohabitation changes. The heritability of these traits correlates with the cumulative genetic contributions of over half a million single nucleotide sequence variants measured in a different population of unrelated individuals. Comparison of same-sex and opposite sex cotwins showed no significant differences. We show that two new loci on chromosomes 7 and 12 are associated with the most heritable traits.


An analysis of 752 twin pairs from the Colorado Twin Registry, shows that the beta-diversity of monozygotic twins is significantly lower than for dizygotic or unrelated individuals. This is independent of cohabitation status. Intraclass correlation coefficients of nearly all taxa examined were higher for MZ than DZ twin pairs. A comparison of individuals sampled over 2-7 years confirmed previous reports that the oral microbiome remains relatively more stable in individuals over that time than to unrelated people. Twin modeling shows that a number of microbiome phenotypes were more than 50% heritable consistent with the hypothesis that human genes influence microbial populations. To identify loci that could influence microbiome phenotypes, we carried out an unbiased GWAS analysis which identified one locus on chromosome 7 near the gene IMMPL2 that reached genome-wide significance after correcting for multiple testing. Another locus on chromosome 12 near the non-coding RNA gene INHBA-AS1 achieved genome-wide significance when analyzed using KGG4 that sums SNP significance across coding genes.


Using multiple methods, we have demonstrated that some aspects of the human oral microbiome are heritable and that with a relatively small sample we were able to identify two previously unidentified loci that may be involved.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
Current View