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The Hologenomic Basis of Speciation: Gut Bacteria Cause Hybrid Lethality in the Genus Nasonia

Science  18 Jul 2013:

DOI: 10.1126/science.1240659

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Abstract

Although the gut microbiome influences numerous aspects of organismal fitness, its role in animal evolution and the origin of new species is largely unknown. Here, we present evidence that beneficial bacterial communities in the guts of closely related species of the genus Nasonia form species-specific, phylosymbiotic assemblages that cause lethality in interspecific hybrids. Bacterial constituents and abundance are irregular in hybrids relative to parental controls, and antibiotic curing of the gut bacteria significantly rescues hybrid survival. Moreover, feeding bacteria to germ-free hybrids reinstates lethality and recapitulates the expression of innate immune genes observed in conventionally reared hybrids. We conclude that in this animal complex, the gut microbiome and host genome represent a coadapted “hologenome” that breaks down during hybridization, promoting hybrid lethality and assisting speciation.

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