Despite the importance of horizontal gene transfer for rapid bacterial evolution, reliable assignment of mobile genetic elements to their microbial hosts in natural communities such as the human gut microbiota is lacking. We used high-throughput chromosomal conformation capture coupled with probabilistic modelling of experimental noise to resolve 88 strain-level metagenome-assembled genomes of distal gut bacteria from two participants, including 12,251 accessory elements. Comparisons of two samples collected 10 years apart for each of the participants revealed extensive in situ exchange of accessory elements as well as evidence of adaptive evolution in core genomes. Accessory elements were predominantly promiscuous and prevalent in the distal gut metagenomes of 218 adult individuals. This research provides a foundation and approach for studying microbial evolution in natural environments.


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Citation:  Yaffe, E., Relman, D.A. Tracking microbial evolution in the human gut using Hi-C reveals extensive horizontal gene transfer, persistence and adaptation. Nat Microbiol 5, 343–353 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41564-019-0625-0