Date of Award

Summer 6-15-2022

Document Type

Thesis (Ph.D.)

Department or Program

Quantitative Biomedical Sciences

First Advisor

Anne G. Hoen

Second Advisor

H. Robert Frost


The human gut microbiome is a complex and dynamic ecosystem, featuring a multitude of microbes all interacting with their hosts in an elaborate manner. Even though this exchange is often mediated through microbial metabolic and functional outputs, such as the production of certain metabolites, environmental exposures, and host lifestyle are highly influential in shaping the presence of microbial species irrespective of their individual roles. As such, a comprehensive understanding of the microbiome requires researchers to examine the relationship between taxonomic abundance and function simultaneously. Assessing microbial contributions to important ecosystem services can enable identification of robust functions supported by a variety of species, or to identify important keystone taxa that are associated with a disease-causing biochemical pathway. The primary objective of this thesis is to assess different approaches for investigating the taxa-function relationship and evaluate its value in providing unique biological insights. First, we leveraged densely collected multi-omics data from the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study to identify genus-metabolite pairs that are core to infant gut microbiomes. Second, we developed a novel statistical method that enables integrating taxa-function relationships in epidemiological studies. Third, we assessed microbial phenotypic traits as a potential source for defining interpretable and human-centric microbiome functions