Journal article Open Access

Disentangling the relative roles of vertical transmission, subsequent colonizations and diet on cockroach microbiome assembly

Renelies-Hamilton, Justinn; Germer, Kristjan; Sillam-Dussès, David; Bodawatta, Kasun; Poulsen, Michael

A multitude of factors affect the assemblies of complex microbial communities associated with animal hosts, with implications for community flexibility, resilience and long-term stability; however, their relative effects have rarely been deduced. Here, we use a tractable lab model to quantify the relative and combined effects of parental transmission (egg case microbiome present/reduced), gut inocula (cockroach vs. termite gut provisioned), and varying diets (matched or unmatched with gut inoculum source) on gut microbiota structure of hatchlings of the omnivorous cockroach Shelfordella lateralis using 16S rRNA gene (rDNA) amplicon sequencing. We show that the presence of a pre-existing bacterial community via vertical transmission of microbes on egg cases reduces subsequent microbial invasion, suggesting priority effects that allow initial colonizers to take a stronghold and which stabilize the microbiome. However, subsequent inoculation sources more strongly affect ultimate community composition, and their ecological networks, with distinct host-taxon-of-origin effects on which bacteria establish. While this is so, communities respond flexibly to specific diets in ways that consequently impact predicted community functions. In conclusion, our findings suggest that inoculations drive communities towards different stable states depending on colonization and extinction events, through ecological host-microbe relations and interactions with other gut bacteria, while diet in parallel shapes the functional capabilities of these microbiomes. These effects may lead to consistent microbial communities that maximize the extended phenotype that the microbiota provides the host, particularly if microbes spend most of their lives in host-associated environments. 

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