J Neurogastroenterol Motil 2022; 28(2): 332-333  https://doi.org/10.5056/jnm21242
Sexual Dimorphism in the Gut Microbiome: Microgenderome or Microsexome?
Agata Mulak,1* Muriel Larauche,2,3 and Yvette Taché2,3
1Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Wroclaw Medical University, Wroclaw, Poland; 2Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases, Department of Medicine, CURE: Digestive Diseases Research Center, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA; and 3VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Received: December 16, 2021; Revised: January 10, 2022; Accepted: January 10, 2022; Published online: April 30, 2022
© The Korean Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility. All rights reserved.

cc This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

TO THE EDITOR: An emerging concept of “microgenderome” has been recently evoked by Yoon and Kim1 in their comprehensive review on the role of sex hormones and gender in the gut microbiota. However, does this term really reflect sexual dimorphism in the microbiome or is it rather a misnomer? Should not the term “microsexome” be used instead? To the best our knowledge, that renaming was originally proposed by Spencer Stubbs (unpublished communication). It is important to emphasize the differences between sex- and gender-related influences on the gut microbiota. Indeed, the term “microgenderome” has been coined to describe sex differences in bidirectional interactions between the microbiota, hormones, immunity and disease susceptibility.2,3 However, as recently stated by Vemuri et al,4 since gender is a social construct, and sex is a biological construct, the term “microgenderome” may not accurately reflect most of the factors driving the binary male or female differences in the microbiota determined by biological sex rather than gender.4

While gender is defined as the range of characteristics pertaining to and differentiating between masculinity and femininity, these characteristics include behaviors, sex-based social structures (ie, gender roles), or gender identity. However, in basic research, “gender” is commonly used to refer to the biological sex of animals. It should be emphasized that the main reason for that inconsistency and ambiguity of nomenclature is the interchangeable use of the terms “sex” and “gender” in basic science, which has been uncritically extrapolated into translational research and also human studies.5

Importantly, we cannot exclude that gender (not only sex) can also have impact on the microbiome. For example, gender norms and roles may influence factors such as diet, physical activity, antimicrobial exposure, and psychiatric comorbidity. Moreover, a large body of evidence shows that the gut microbiota in return may affect behaviors and social functions confirming close interactions within the brain-gut-microbiota axis.6,7

The term “microsexome” should be used preferentially in the context of the mainstream microbiome research addressing the characteristics related to biological sex and/or sex hormones. The sex bias present in numerous diseases is not entirely a host-intrinsic factor, since it may also be significantly reinforced by the commensal microbiota, as in the case of disorders of gut-brain interaction.2,8-10 Unravelling fundamental processes regulating sexual dimorphism in the host-microbiome bidirectional interactions should allow us to tailor prevention and treatment strategies in a sex-dependent manner as a step towards personalized medicine.

Financial support


Conflicts of interest


Author contributions

Agata Mulak, Muriel Larauche, and Yvette Taché wrote and revised the manuscript, and have approved the final version of the letter.

  1. Yoon K, Kim N. Roles of sex hormones and gender in the gut microbiota. J Neurogastroenterol Motil 2021;27:314-325.
    Pubmed KoreaMed CrossRef
  2. Flak MB, Neves JF, Blumberg RS. Immunology. Welcome to the microgenderome. Science 2013;339:1044-1045.
    Pubmed KoreaMed CrossRef
  3. Wallis A, Butt H, Ball M, Lewis DP, Bruck D. Support for the microgenderome invites enquiry into sex differences. Gut Microbes 2017;8:46-52.
    Pubmed KoreaMed CrossRef
  4. Vemuri R, Sylvia KE, Klein SL, et al. The microgenderome revealed: sex differences in bidirectional interactions between the microbiota, hormones, immunity and disease susceptibility. Semin Immunopathol 2019;41:265-275.
    Pubmed KoreaMed CrossRef
  5. Hines M. Neuroscience and sex/gender: looking back and forward. J Neurosci 2020;40:37-43.
    Pubmed KoreaMed CrossRef
  6. Mayer EA, Knight R, Mazmanian SK, Cryan JF, Tillisch K. Gut microbes and the brain: paradigm shift in neuroscience. J Neurosci 2014;34:15490-15496.
    Pubmed KoreaMed CrossRef
  7. Jaggar M, Rea K, Spichak S, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. You've got male: sex and the microbiota-gut-brain axis across the lifespan. Front Neuroendocrinol 2020;56:100815.
    Pubmed CrossRef
  8. Ma ZS, Li W. How and why men and women differ in their microbiomes: medical ecology and network analyses of the microgenderome. Adv Sci (Weinh) 2019;6:1902054.
    Pubmed KoreaMed CrossRef
  9. Kim YS, Unno T, Kim BY, Park MS. Sex differences in gut microbiota. World J Mens Health 2020;38:48-60.
    Pubmed KoreaMed CrossRef
  10. Mulak A, Taché Y, Larauche M. Sex hormones in the modulation of irritable bowel syndrome. World J Gastroenterol 2014;20:2433-2448.
    Pubmed KoreaMed CrossRef

This Article



Aims and Scope