Holobiont Evolution: Mathematical Model with Vertical vs. Horizontal Microbiome Transmission

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Joan Roughgarden


A holobiont is a composite organism consisting of a host together with its microbiome, such as a coral with its zooxanthellae. Hosts and their microbiomes are often intimately integrated in behavior, physiology, anatomy, and development. To explain this integration, some investigators contend that selection operates on holobionts as a unit and view the microbiome's genes as extending the host's nuclear genome to jointly comprise a hologenome. Holobiont selection then operates on holobionts with their hologenomes by analogy to how ordinary natural selection operates on individuals with their genes. Other investigators point out that vertical transmission of microbiomes is uncommon. They contend that holobiont selection cannot be effective because a holobiont's microbiome is an acquired condition rather than an inherited trait. The disagreement between these positions invites a simple mathematical model to see how holobiont selection might operate and to assess its plausibility as an evolutionary force. Here I present two variants of such a model. In one variant, juvenile hosts obtain microbiomes from their parents (vertical transmission). In the other variant, microbiomes of juvenile hosts are assembled from source pools contain...Continue Reading

Related Concepts

Pathogenic Organism
Vertical Disease Transmission
Anatomical Space Structure
Gene Transfer, Horizontal
Disease Transmission
Commensal parasite

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