What is the Difference Between Microbiome and Microbiota

The main difference between microbiome and microbiota is that microbiome describes the entire habitat of the microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea, lower and higher eukaryotes, and viruses, their genomes (i.e., genes), and the surrounding environmental conditions whereas microbiota is the assemblage of microorganisms present in a defined environment

Microbiome and microbiota are two terms we use interchangeably to describe microbial communities. However, there is a distinct difference between microbiome and microbiota. Furthermore, microbiome includes both biotic and abiotic factors of a particular habitat while microbiota only includes the biotic factors.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is a Microbiome
     – Definition, Components, Importance
2. What is a Microbiota
     – Definition, Components, Importance
3. What are the Similarities Between Microbiome and Microbiota
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Microbiome and Microbiota
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Abiotic, Biotic, Genetic Makeup, Microbiome, Microbiota, Microorganisms

Difference Between Microbiome and Microbiota - Comparison Summary

What is a Microbiome

Microbiome is a term that describes the collective genomes of the microorganisms that reside in an environmental niche or in microorganisms themselves. Also, this term is based on the definition of a biome, which refers to the collection of all biotic factors in a particular habitat. In addition, it describes the surrounding environmental conditions of microorganisms.

What is the Difference Between Microbiome and Microbiota

Figure 1: Plant Microbiome

However, some scientists limit the definition of the microbiome to the collection of genes and genomes of members of a microbiota. Therefore, here, microbiome refers to the metagenome, which is the genetic material found in an environmental sample. Nevertheless, in a broad sense, the microbiome may describe the metagenome along with the environmental constitutes a particular habitat. Moreover, the microbiome is always studied along with metagenomics, metabonomics, metatranscriptomics, and metaproteomics combined with clinical or environmental metadata.

What is a Microbiota

Microbiota is an ecological community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms. The term was introduced by Lederberg and McCray, who emphasized the importance of microorganisms inhabiting the human body in terms of health and disease. Generally, a microbiota includes bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi, and viruses. These microorganisms can be crucial for immunologic, hormonal and metabolic homeostasis of their host.

Microbiome vs Microbiota

Figure 2: Human Skin Microbiota

Furthermore, molecular methods which rely on the analysis of 16S rRNA genes, 18S rRNA genes, or other marker genes and genomic regions of biological samples involve in defining the microbiota of a particular organism or a part of the organism. Here, molecular biology techniques including amplification and sequencing of DNA and other taxonomic assignments are helpful to identify the type of microorganisms in the microbiota.

Similarities Between Microbiome and Microbiota

  • Microbiome and microbiota are two terms that describe communities of microorganisms that live in a defined environment.
  • In addition, both of these terms describe the biotic factors by means of microorganisms in a particular habitat.
  • Furthermore, they describe ecological communities of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms including bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi, and viruses.

Difference Between Microbiome and Microbiota

Definition

Microbiota refers to the entire habitat of microorganisms, including bacteria, archaea, lower and higher eukaryotes, and viruses, their genomes (i.e., genes), and the surrounding environmental conditions, while microbiota refers to the assemblage of microorganisms present in a defined environment. Thus, this is the main difference between microbiome and microbiota.

Biotic and Abiotic Factors

Furthermore, microbiome describes both biotic and abiotic factors associated with microorganisms within a particular habitat while microbiota describes only the biotic factor of microorganisms in the habitat.

Significance

Another difference between microbiome and microbiota is that microbiome mainly focuses on the genetic makeup of microorganisms while microbiota mainly focuses on the type of microorganisms in the habitat.

Conclusion

Microbiome describes microorganisms, their genomes and other abiotic factors associated with microorganisms in a particular habitat. Therefore, it focuses on the genetic makeup of microorganisms as well. On the other hand, microbiota describes the collection of an ecological community of microorganisms. Moreover, this only focuses on the biotic factors made up of microorganisms in the habitat. Therefore, the main difference between microbiome and microbiota is the type of factors that describe each term.

References:

1. Marchesi, Julian R, and Jacques Ravel. “The vocabulary of microbiome research: a proposal.” Microbiome vol. 3 31. 30 Jul. 2015, doi:10.1186/s40168-015-0094-5

Image Courtesy:

1. “Plant microbiome” By Murali Gopal & Alka Gupta – Microbiome Selection Could Spur Next-Generation Plant Breeding Strategies, Front. Microbiol., 07 December 2016. (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia  
2. “Skin Microbiome20169-300” By Darryl Leja, NHGRI (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia   

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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