Modeling spatial interaction networks of the gut microbiota

Xiaocang Cao, Ang Dong, Guangbo Kang, Xiaoli Wang, Liyun Duan, Huixing Hou, Tianming Zhao, Shuang Wu, Xinjuan Liu, He Huang, Rongling Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


How the gut microbiota is organized across space is postulated to influence microbial succession and its mutualistic relationships with the host. The lack of dynamic or perturbed abundance data poses considerable challenges for characterizing the spatial pattern of microbial interactions. We integrate allometric scaling theory, evolutionary game theory, and prey-predator theory into a unified framework under which quasi-dynamic microbial networks can be inferred from static abundance data. We illustrate that such networks can capture the full properties of microbial interactions, including causality, the sign of the causality, strength, and feedback loop, and are dynamically adaptive along spatial gradients, and context-specific, characterizing variability between individuals and within the same individual across time and space. We design and conduct a gut microbiota study to validate the model, characterizing key spatial determinants of the microbial differences between ulcerative colitis and healthy controls. Our model provides a sophisticated means of unraveling a complete atlas of how microbial interactions vary across space and quantifying causal relationships between such spatial variability and change in health state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2106103
JournalGut microbes
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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