Ran Blekhman, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development

Ran Blekhman

Contact Info

blekhman@umn.edu

Office Phone 612-624-4092

PhD, University of Chicago, 2010

Summary

Our lab studies human genomic factors that control and interact with the microbiome. We utilize high-throughput genomics technologies and employ computational, statistical, network-theory, data mining, and population genetic analytical approaches, with the goal of understanding how we interact with our microbial communities, how host-microbe interactions affect human disease, and how the symbiosis between us and our microbiome evolved.

Expertise

human genomics, human microbiome

Research

Research Summary/Interests

The microbial cells that colonize the human body outnumber human cells by an order of magnitude. Recent advances in high throughput sequencing technologies have unveiled great variability in the ecological communities of microbes that inhabit the human body, and shifts in the species composition have been associated with multiple chronic conditions, such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity. Although the human microbiome is influenced by environmental factors, microbial communities also interact with human cells through the immune system and metabolic pathways.

We study host genomic factors that control and interact with the microbiome. We utilize high-throughput genomics technologies and employ computational, statistical, network-theory, data mining, and population genetic analytical approaches, with the goal of understanding how we interact with our microbial communities, how host-microbe interactions affect human disease, and how the symbiosis between us and our microbiome evolved.

Our research is driven by the following questions:

1. What are the molecular and genetic mechanisms controlling host-bacteria interactions? Which genes and pathways are involved in both the host and microbiome side?

2. How does host genetic variation control interactions with our microbiome? What are the effects of different environments and genetic backgrounds across human populations?

3. How did the complex symbiosis between us and our microbiome evolve throughout human history? Can we identify signatures of coevolution in human and microbial genomes?

4. How do host-microbiome interactions control susceptibility to complex disease? What are the unique roles of host genetics, bacterial communities, and environmental exposures?

Publications

  • Functional genomics of host-microbiome interactions in humans. F. Luca, S.S. Kupfer, D. Knights, A. Khoruts, R. Blekhman, Trends in Genetics, 2017.
  • Discrete mutations in colorectal cancer correlate with defined microbial communities in the tumor microenvironment. M.B. Burns, E. Montassier, J. Abrahante, T.K. Starr, D. Knights, R. Blekhman. BioRxiv, 2017.
  • Genetic ancestry and natural selection drive population differences in immune responses to pathogens. Y. Nédélec, J. Sanz, G. Baharian, Z. A. Szpiech, A. Pacis, A. Dumaine, J.C. Grenier, A. Freiman, A. J. Sams, S. Hebert, A. P. Sabourin, F. Luca, R. Blekhman, R. D. Hernandez, R. Pique-Regi, J. Tung, V. Yotova, and L. B. Barreiro. Cell, 2016.
  • Gut microbiome of coexisting BaAka pygmies and Bantu reflects gradients of traditional subsistence patterns. A. Gomez, K. Petrzelkova, M. B. Burns, C. J. Yeoman, K. R. Amato, K. Vlckova, D. Modry, A. Todd, C. A. Jost Robinson, M. Remis, M. Torralba, E. Morton, J. D. Umana, F. Carbonero, H. R. Gaskins, K. E. Nelson, B. A. Wilson, R. M. Stumpf, B. A. White, S. R. Leigh, and R. Blekhman. Cell Reports, 2016.
  • Host genetic variation impacts microbiome composition across human body sites. R. Blekhman, J. K. Goodrich, K. Huang, Q. Sun, R. Bukowski, J. T. Bell, T. D. Spector, A. Keinan, R. E. Ley, D. Gevers, and A. G. Clark. Genome Biology,2015.
  • Variation in rural African gut microbiota is strongly correlated with colonization by Entamoeba and subsistence. E. R. Morton, J. Lynch, A. Froment, S. Lafosse , E. Heyer , M. Przeworski, R. Blekhman, and L. Segurel. PLOS Genetics, 2015.
  • Virulence genes are a signature of the microbiome in the colorectal tumor microenvironment. M. B. Burns, J. Lynch, T. K. Starr, D. Knights, and R. Blekhman. Genome Medicine, 2015
  • Social networks predict gut microbiome composition in wild baboons. J. Tung, L. B. Barreiro, M. B. Burns, J.-C. Grenier, J. Lynch, L. E. Grieneisen, J. Altmann, S. C. Alberts, R. Blekhman, and E. A. Archie. eLife, 2015
  • Human genetics shape the gut microbiome. J. K. Goodrich, J. L. Waters, A. C. Poole, J. L. Sutter, O. Koren, R. Blekhman, M. Beaumont, W. Van Treuren, R. Knight, J. T. Bell, T. Spector, A. G. Clark, and R. E. Ley. Cell, 2014