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Summary

Reduced susceptibility to sporadic colorectal cancer in native Africans (NA) is correlated with low consumption of animal products and greater microbial production of colonic methane. In this context, two hydrogenotrophic microbial groups are of interest, methanogenic Archaea (MA) utilizing H2 to produce methane and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) generating hydrogen sulfide, which has been linked with chronic inflammatory disorders of the colon. In the present study, stool samples from NA, consuming a diet high in resistant starch and low in animal products, and from African Americans (AA) and European Americans (EA), both consuming a typical Western diet, were examined for genetic diversity and structure of Archaea, MA and SRB communities. In general, a greater proportion of NA than AA and EA harboured the full range of targeted hydrogenotrophic groups. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of 16S rRNA genes and specific functional genes, combined with multivariate statistical analyses, revealed that NA harboured more diverse and different Archaea and MA populations than AA and EA. Also, NA harboured significantly distinct SRB populations compared with AA and EA. Taken together, these data are consistent with diet selecting for distinct hydrogenotrophic microbiota.