Heritability of oral microbial species in caries-active and caries-free twins

Patricia M.A. Corby, Walter A. Bretz, Thomas C. Hart, Nicholas J. Schork, J. Wessel, James Lyons-Weiler, Bruce J. Paster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

36 Scopus citations


Oral microbes that colonize in the mouths of humans contribute to disease susceptibility, but it is unclear if host genetic factors mediate colonization. We therefore tested the hypothesis that the levels at which oral microbes colonize in the mouth are heritable. Dental plaque biofilms were sampled from intact tooth surfaces of 118 caries-free twins. An additional 86 caries-active twins were sampled for plaque from carious lesions and intact tooth surfaces. Using a reverse capture checkerboard assay the relative abundance of 82 bacterial species was determined. An integrative computational predictive model determined microbial abundance patterns of microbial species in caries-free twins as compared to caries-active twins. Heritability estimates were calculated for the relative microbial abundance levels of the microbial species in both groups. The levels of 10 species were significantly different in healthy individuals than in caries-active individuals, including, A. defectiva, S. parasanguinis, S. mitis/oralis, S. sanguinis, S. cristatus, S. salivarius, Streptococcus sp. clone CH016, G. morbillorum and G. haemolysans. Moderate to high heritability estimates were found for these species (h2 = 56%-80 %, p < .0001). Similarity of the overall oral microbial flora was also evident in caries-free twins from multivariate distance matrix regression analysis. It appears that genetic and/or familial factors significantly contribute to the colonization of oral beneficial species in twins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)821-828
Number of pages8
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Genetics(clinical)

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    Corby, P. M. A., Bretz, W. A., Hart, T. C., Schork, N. J., Wessel, J., Lyons-Weiler, J., & Paster, B. J. (2007). Heritability of oral microbial species in caries-active and caries-free twins. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 10(6), 821-828. https://doi.org/10.1375/twin.10.6.821