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December 2021 Information content of high-order associations of the human gut microbiota network
Weston D. Viles, Juliette C. Madan, Hongzhe Li, Margaret R. Karagas, Anne G. Hoen
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Ann. Appl. Stat. 15(4): 1788-1807 (December 2021). DOI: 10.1214/21-AOAS1449


The human gastrointestinal tract is an environment that hosts an ecosystem of microorganisms essential to human health. Vital biological processes emerge from fundamental inter- and intraspecies molecular interactions that influence the assembly and composition of the gut microbiota ecology. Here, we quantify the complexity of the ecological relationships within the human infant gut microbiota ecosystem as a function of the information contained in the nonlinear associations of a sequence of increasingly specified maximum entropy representations of the system. Our paradigm frames the ecological state, in terms of the presence or absence of individual microbial ecological units that are identified by amplicon sequence variants (ASV) in the gut microenvironment, as a function of both the ecological states of its neighboring units and, in a departure from standard graphical model representations, the associations among the units within its neighborhood. We characterize the order of the system based on the relative quantity of statistical information encoded by high-order statistical associations of the infant gut microbiota.

Funding Statement

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (OD UG3OD023275, NIEHS P01ES022832, NIEHS P20ES018175, NIGMS R01GM123014, NIGMS P20GM104416, NLM K01LM011985 and NLM R01LM012723) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (RD-83544201 and RD-83459901).


The authors are grateful to the children and families that made this study possible and to the staff of the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study.

WDV’s current affiliation is with the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Southern Maine.


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Weston D. Viles. Juliette C. Madan. Hongzhe Li. Margaret R. Karagas. Anne G. Hoen. "Information content of high-order associations of the human gut microbiota network." Ann. Appl. Stat. 15 (4) 1788 - 1807, December 2021.


Received: 1 August 2020; Revised: 1 January 2021; Published: December 2021
First available in Project Euclid: 21 December 2021

Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/21-AOAS1449

Keywords: ecosystem , Gut microbiota , high-order associations , Information , Relative entropy

Rights: Copyright © 2021 Institute of Mathematical Statistics


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Vol.15 • No. 4 • December 2021
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