Functional metagenomic profiling of intestinal microbiome in extreme ageing

Simone Rampelli, Marco Candela, Silvia Turroni, Elena Biagi Collino, Claudio Franceschi, Paul W. O'Toole, Patrizia Brigidi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Age-related alterations in human gut microbiota composition have been thoroughly described, but a detailed functional description of the intestinal bacterial coding capacity is still missing. In order to elucidate the contribution of the gut metagenome to the complex mosaic of human longevity, we applied shotgun sequencing to total fecal bacterial DNA in a selection of samples belonging to a well-characterized human ageing cohort. The age-related trajectory of the human gut microbiome was characterized by loss of genes for shortchain fatty acid production and an overall decrease in the saccharolytic potential, while proteolytic functions were more abundant than in the intestinal metagenome of younger adults. This altered functional profile was associated with a relevant enrichment in "pathobionts", i.e. opportunistic proinflammatory bacteria generally present in the adult gut ecosystem in low numbers. Finally, as a signature for long life we identified 116 microbial genes that significantly correlated with ageing. Collectively, our data emphasize the relationship between intestinal bacteria and human metabolism, by detailing the modifications in the gut microbiota as a consequence of and/or promoter of the physiological changes occurring in the human host upon ageing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)902-912
Number of pages11
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Centenarians
  • Extreme-aging
  • Gut microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Cell Biology


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