Paleogenomic insights into the red complex bacteria Tannerella forsythia in Pre-Hispanic and Colonial individuals from Mexico: T. forsythia aDNA in Mexico

Miriam Bravo-Lopez, Viridiana Villa-Islas, Carolina Rocha Arriaga, Ana B. Villasenõr-Altamirano, Axel Guzmán-Solís, Marcela Sandoval-Velasco, Julie K. Wesp, Keitlyn Alcantara, Aurelio López-Corral, Jorge Gómez-Valdés, Elizabeth Mejiá, Alberto Herrera, Alejandro Meraz-Moreno, Maria De La Luz Moreno-Cabrera, Andrés Moreno-Estrada, Maria A. Nieves-Colón, Joel Olvera, Julia Pérez-Pérez, Katrine Højholt Iversen, Simon RasmussenKarla Sandoval, Gabriela Zepeda, Mariá C. Ávila-Arcos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The 'red complex' is an aggregate of three oral bacteria (Tannerella forsythia, Porphyromonas gingivalis and Treponema denticola) responsible for severe clinical manifestation of periodontal disease. Here, we report the first direct evidence of ancient T. forsythia DNA in dentin and dental calculus samples from archaeological skeletal remains that span from the Pre-Hispanic to the Colonial period in Mexico. We recovered twelve partial ancient T. forsythia genomes and observed a distinct phylogenetic placement of samples, suggesting that the strains present in Pre-Hispanic individuals likely arrived with the first human migrations to the Americas and that new strains were introduced with the arrival of European and African populations in the sixteenth century. We also identified instances of the differential presence of genes between periods in the T. forsythia ancient genomes, with certain genes present in Pre-Hispanic individuals and absent in Colonial individuals, and vice versa. This study highlights the potential for studying ancient T. forsythia genomes to unveil past social interactions through analysis of disease transmission. Our results illustrate the long-standing relationship between this oral pathogen and its human host, while also unveiling key evidence to understand its evolutionary history in Pre-Hispanic and Colonial Mexico. This article is part of the theme issue 'Insights into health and disease from ancient biomolecules'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20190580
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1812
StatePublished - Nov 23 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Tannerella forsythia
  • ancient pathogens
  • capture-enrichment
  • paleogenomics
  • periodontal disease
  • red complex


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