Modeling the Role of the Microbiome in Evolution

Complexity Digest

There is undeniable evidence showing that bacteria have strongly influenced the evolution and biological functions of multicellular organisms. It has been hypothesized that many host-microbial interactions have emerged so as to increase the adaptive fitness of the holobiont (the host plus its microbiota). Although this association has been corroborated for many specific cases, general mechanisms explaining the role of the microbiota in the evolution of the host are yet to be understood. Here we present an evolutionary model in which a network representing the host adapts in order to perform a predefined function. During its adaptation, the host network (HN) can interact with other networks representing its microbiota. We show that this interaction greatly accelerates and improves the adaptability of the HN without decreasing the adaptation of the microbial networks. Furthermore, the adaptation of the HN to perform several functions is possible only when it interacts with many different bacterial…

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