Meagan Rubel

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Pennsylvania, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9299

Approve Date

April 19, 2016

Project Title

Rubel, Meagan A., U. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - To aid research on 'Effect of Diet and Parasites on the Gut Metagenomics of Environmentally Diverse Africans,' supervised by Dr. Sarah Tishkoff

Preliminary abstract: The research proposes to assess fundamental questions about human evolution and adaptation to helminth disease and diet by using shotgun metagenomic sequencing to characterize the gut microbial communities of African hunting and gathering populations with comparative pastoralist and agriculturalist populations. African populations have adapted to a range of environments and foods as they spread through the continent, and the microbes of their guts may have coevolved with them. The focus on hunter-gatherer groups in this research can provide analogical insight into what may have constituted early modern human gut microbiomes (GMs), as hunting and gathering was the primary means of subsistence for all of human history until ~12 kya. We capture more recent dietary transitions by including comparative pastoralist and agriculturalist populations, who may harbor microbes unique to their subsistence type. Characterizing the spectrum of species diversity and richness in GMs from indigenous African will therefore provide an understanding of how these microbes interact with each other, their hosts, and how they may reflect dietary adaptation. Furthermore, parasites endemic to the environments of sampled populations including soil-transmitted helminths (STH) and schistosomes (hereafter referred to collectively as ‘helminths’) are implicated in gastrointestinal illness, and may have roles in the structure and function of GM communities. The broad goals of this research are to test for associations between GM composition in diverse Africans with ethnicity, diet, helminth infection, geographic variation, genetic variation, and subsistence to elucidate factors that can influence human physiology and could have a role in shaping human evolution.