Investigating the demographic history of Japan using ancient oral microbiota: Ancient Japanese Dental Calculus

While microbial communities in the human body (microbiota) are now commonly associated with health and disease in industrialised populations, we know very little about how these communities co-evolved and changed with humans throughout history and deep prehistory. We can now examine these communities by sequencing ancient DNA preserved within calcified dental plaque (calculus), providing insights into the origins of disease and their links to human history. Here, we examine ancient DNA preserved within dental calculus samples and their associations with two major cultural periods in Japan: The Jomon period hunter-gatherers approximately 3000 years before present (BP) and the Edo period agriculturalists 400-150 BP. We investigate how human oral microbiomes have changed in Japan through time and explore the presence of microorganisms associated with oral diseases (e.g. periodontal disease, dental caries) in ancient Japanese populations. Finally, we explore oral microbial strain diversity and its potential links to ancient demography in ancient Japan by performing phylogenomic analysis of a widely conserved oral species-Anaerolineaceae oral taxon 439. This research represents, to our knowledge, the first study of ancient oral microbiomes from Japan and demonstrates that the analysis of ancient dental calculus can provide key information about the origin of non-infectious disease and its deep roots with human demography. This article is part of the theme issue 'Insights into health and disease from ancient biomolecules'.



Work Title Investigating the demographic history of Japan using ancient oral microbiota: Ancient Japanese Dental Calculus
Open Access
  1. Raphael Eisenhofer
  2. Hideaki Kanzawa-Kiriyama
  3. Ken Ichi Shinoda
  4. Laura S. Weyrich
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Publication Date November 23, 2020
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
Deposited December 14, 2021




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  • Created
  • Added Eisenhofer-etal-2020-Investigating_the_demographic_history_of_Japan_using_ancient_oral_microbiota.pdf
  • Added Creator Raphael Eisenhofer
  • Added Creator Hideaki Kanzawa-Kiriyama
  • Added Creator Ken Ichi Shinoda
  • Added Creator Laura S. Weyrich
  • Published
  • Updated
  • Updated