The Ley Lab is moving to become the Department of Microbiome Science, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen, Germany, in summer 2016.

Welcome to the Ley Lab home page.  We are in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics and the Department of Microbiology at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.  We are broadly interested in how interactions between humans and their gut microbiota influence metabolism and obesity.

Host interactions with the microbiome are deeply implicated in modern metabolic plagues: metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.  If we could better understand how the microbiome impacts host metabolism, we could address therapeutically an underlying driver of the biggest health problems that we face today.

Eukaryotic species have harnessed the microbiota to extend their phenotypes, yet gut microbiomes are immensely complex.  When new hosts (infants) emerge, microbes are assembled into their microbiomes from the environment.  The microbiome is challenged during disturbances, augmented by newly arriving microbes, and its residents are aided by their synthropic partners.  Host exudates including peptides, mucus, and antibodies, all have been implicated in shaping the composition of these communities.  In turn the host can be irreversibly reliant on its microbiome for immune development, nutrient release, and a growing list of other aspects of metabolism.  The specifics of the mix at any given time can have profound impacts on host metabolism and health.

The role of host genetic variation in shaping the microbiome remains to be discerned.  In the Ley lab, we are broadly interested in how host genetics control the microbiome in the human gut.  We explore how interactions between host genetic status and the microbiome influence host metabolic phenotypes.  To do so, we employ genetics, genomics, metabolomics, gnotobiotics (i.e., transplantation of microbes into germ free mice) and tools of mucosal immunology.

Selected Publications:

Goodrich, J. K. , E. R. Davenport, M. A. Jackson, M. Beaumont, R. Knight, T. D. Spector, J. T. Bell, A. G. Clark, R. E. Ley. Genetic determinants of the gut microbiome assessed in UK Twins. Cell Host & Microbe 19:731-43. (2016)

Goodrich*, J. K., E. R. Davenport*, J. L. Waters*, A. G. Clark and R. E. Ley. Cross-species comparisons of host genetic associations with the microbiome. Science 352: 532-535. (2016)

Goodrich, J. K.,  J. L. Waters, A. C. Poole, J. L. Sutter, O. Koren, R. Blekhman, M. Beaumont, W. Van Treuren, R. Knight, J. T. Bell, T. D. Spector, A. G. Clark and R. E. Ley. Human genetics shape the gut microbiome. Cell 159: 789-799. (2014)

Cullender, T. C., B. Chassaing, A. Janzon, K. Kumar, C. Muller, J. J. Werner, L. T. Angenent, M. E. Bell, A. G. Hay, D. A. Peterson, J. Walter, M. Vijay-Kumar, A. T. Gewirtz and R. E. Ley. Innate and adaptive immunity interact to quench microbiome flagellar motility in the gut. Cell Host Microbe 14: 571-581. (2013)

DiRienzi*, S. C., I. Sharon*, K. C. Wrighton, O. Koren, L. A. Hug, B. C. Thomas, J. K. Goodrich, J. T. Bell, T. D. Spector, J. F. Banfielda and R. E. Ley.  The human gut and groundwater harbor non-photosynthetic bacteria belonging to a new candidate phylum sibling to Cyanobacteria. eLife 2:e01102 (2013)

Koren, O., J. K. Goodrich, T. C. Cullender, A. Spor, K. Laitinen, H. Backhed, A. Gonzalez, J. J. Werner, L. T. Angenent, R. Knight, F. Backhed, E. Isolauri, S. Salminen and R. E. Ley. Remodeling of the gut microbiome and metabolic changes during pregnancy. Cell 150: 1-11 (2012).

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