Ruth E. Ley To Which Extent Do Genetics Determine the Composition of the Gut Microbiome?

Ruth Ley is Director of the Department of Microbiome Science at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany. In her research she investigates the co-evolution of humans with their microbiomes and explores how host genetics affect the composition of the microbiome. For her scientific achievements Ley has received a number of awards including the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award in 2010, and the ISME Young Investigators Award in 2014. In 2016, she was appointed Honorary Professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Tübingen University.

Area of Research

Molecular Genetics

Omry Koren, Julia K. Goodrich, Tyler C. Cullender, Aymé Spor, Kirsi Laitinen, Helene Kling Bäckhed, Antonio Gonzalez, Jeffrey J. Werner, Largus T. Angenent and Rob Knight. "Host Remodeling of the Gut Microbiome and Metabolic Changes During Pregnancy." Cell 150 (2012): 470-480.  
Julia K. Goodrich, Emily R. Davenport, Jillian L. Waters, Andrew G. Clark and Ruth E. Ley. "Cross-species Comparisons of Host Genetic Associations With the Microbiome." Science 352 (2016): 532-535.  
Jens Walter and Ruth Ley. "The Human Gut Microbiome: Ecology and Recent Evolutionary Changes." Annual Review of Microbiology 65 (2011): 411-429.  

since 2016

Director

Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

Department of Microbiome Science

2014-2017

Associate Professor

Cornell University

Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics

2013-2017

Associate Professor

Cornell University

Department of Microbiology

2011-2014

Adjunct Asst. Professor

Cornell University

Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics

2008-2013

Assistant Professor

Cornell University

Department of Microbiology

2007-2008

Research Assistant Professor

Washington University School of Medicine

2005-2007

Instructor

Washington University School of Medicine

2004-2005

Post-Doc

Washington University School of Medicine

Center for Genome Sciences

2001-2004

Post-Doc

Colorado State University

Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

2001

PhD

Colorado State University

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

1992

B.A.

University of California, Berkeley

Integrative Biology

Prizes

- Honorary Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Tübingen University (2016)

- International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) Young Investigator’ s Award (2014)

- Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Research and Extension Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Early Achievement (2011)

- NIH Director’ s New Innovator Award (2010)

- Hartwell Investigator (2009)

- Beckman Young Investigator (2009)

- Pew Biomedical Scholar (2009)

- NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (2001)

- American Society for Microbiology Student Travel Grant (2001)

- Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Research Grant, University of Colorado, Boulder (1997, 2000)

- Beverly Sills Research Grant Award, University of Colorado, Boulder (1998)

Fellowships

- Packard Fellow (2010)

- Kavli Fellow, National Academy of Sciences (2007)

- NASA Astrobiology Research Associateship, National Research Council (2001-2003)

- NSF Biosphere-Atmosphere Research Training Fellowship, University of Colorado, Boulder (1996-1998)

© Maximilian Dörrbecker

Max Planck Society


"The Max Planck Society is Germany's most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. The more than 15,000 publications each year in internationally renowned scientific journals are proof of the outstanding research work conducted at Max Planck Institutes – and many of those articles are among the most-cited publications in the relevant field." (Source)

Institute

Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

"Contemporary biology covers an enormous scale, from research on basic cellular processes to predictions about global climate change. But this spectrum has not been continuous: while biologists have long known that organisms physically adapt to their natural environments, too often the underlying genetic, molecular and biochemical processes have remained a mystery. The MPI for Developmental Biology is uniquely poised to help close this gap. At the atomic level, we are investigating how protein machines work. At the molecular and subcellular level, we are studying how proteins and RNA molecules cooperate to regulate fundamental processes such as transcription, translation and signal transduction and how this is dependent on the location of proteins within the cell. At the tissue level, we are determining how cells interact to produce complex outcomes during development. Finally, at the organism level, we are asking how the naturally occurring interactions among microbes, plants and animals shape their genomes." (Source)

Map

The gut microbiome has a significant influence on various diseases ranging from malnutrition to chronic inflammation. It is largely shaped by environmental factors, like diet and lifestyle. How the genetics of the individual affect the composition of the microbiome, however, was largely unknown. RUTH LEY explains in this video that the research team addressed this question by comparing the microbiome of over 1000 twin pairs based on DNA extracted from their stool samples. These comparisons allowed the researchers to compile a list of heritable microbes, top of which is a family of bacteria called the Christensenellaceae. One key finding was that the microbiome of lean individuals contains more of this type of bacteria as compared to the microbiome of obese people. Further experiments showed that, if Christensenellaceae are given to germ free mice, their amount of body fat is reduced. These results might lead to novel therapeutic approaches to obesity and associated diseases.

LT Video Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.21036/LTPUB10378

Human Genetics Shape the Gut Microbiome

  • Julia K. Goodrich, Jillian L. Waters, Angela C. Poole, Jessica L. Sutter, Omry Koren, Ran Blekhman, Michelle Beaumont, William Van Treuren, Rob Knight, Jordana T. Bell and Ruth E. Ley
  • Cell
  • Published in 2014

Chicago

Julia K. Goodrich, Jillian L. Waters, Angela C. Poole, Jessica L. Sutter, Omry Koren, Ran Blekhman, Michelle Beaumont, William Van Treuren, Rob Knight, Jordana T. Bell and Ruth E. Ley. "Human Genetics Shape the Gut Microbiome." Cell 159 (2014): 789-799.