Fungi stabilize connectivity in the lung and skin microbial ecosystems

Laura Tipton, Christian L. Müller, Zachary D. Kurtz, Laurence Huang, Eric Kleerup, Alison Morris, Richard Bonneau, Elodie Ghedin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: No microbe exists in isolation, and few live in environments with only members of their own kingdom or domain. As microbiome studies become increasingly more interested in the interactions between microbes than in cataloging which microbes are present, the variety of microbes in the community should be considered. However, the majority of ecological interaction networks for microbiomes built to date have included only bacteria. Joint association inference across multiple domains of life, e.g., fungal communities (the mycobiome) and bacterial communities, has remained largely elusive. Results: Here, we present a novel extension of the SParse InversE Covariance estimation for Ecological ASsociation Inference (SPIEC-EASI) framework that allows statistical inference of cross-domain associations from targeted amplicon sequencing data. For human lung and skin micro- and mycobiomes, we show that cross-domain networks exhibit higher connectivity, increased network stability, and similar topological re-organization patterns compared to single-domain networks. We also validate in vitro a small number of cross-domain interactions predicted by the skin association network. Conclusions: For the human lung and skin micro- and mycobiomes, our findings suggest that fungi play a stabilizing role in ecological network organization. Our study suggests that computational efforts to infer association networks that include all forms of microbial life, paired with large-scale culture-based association validation experiments, will help formulate concrete hypotheses about the underlying biological mechanisms of species interactions and, ultimately, help understand microbial communities as a whole.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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