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Dual stressors of infection and warming can destabilize host microbiomes

Li, J.D.; Gao, Y.Y.; Stevens, E.J.; King, K.C.


J.D. Li

Y.Y. Gao

K.C. King


Climate change is causing extreme heating events and intensifying infectious disease outbreaks. Animals harbour microbial communities, which are vital for their survival and fitness under stressful conditions. Understanding how microbiome structures change in response to infection and warming may be important for forecasting host performance under global change. Here, we evaluated alterations in the microbiomes of several wild Caenorhabditis elegans isolates spanning a range of latitudes, upon warming temperatures and infection by the parasite Leucobacter musarum. Using 16S rRNA sequencing, we found that microbiome diversity decreased, and dispersion increased over time, with the former being more prominent in uninfected adults and the latter aggravated by infection. Infection reduced dominance of specific microbial taxa, and increased microbiome dispersion, indicating destabilizing effects on host microbial communities. Exposing infected hosts to warming did not have an additive destabilizing effect on their microbiomes. Moreover, warming during pre-adult development alleviated the destabilizing effects of infection on host microbiomes. These results revealed an opposing interaction between biotic and abiotic factors on microbiome structure. Lastly, we showed that increased microbiome dispersion might be associated with decreased variability in microbial species interaction strength. Overall, these findings improve our understanding of animal microbiome dynamics amidst concurrent climate change and epidemics.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 2, 2024
Online Publication Date Mar 18, 2024
Publication Date May 6, 2024
Deposit Date Mar 25, 2024
Journal Philosophical Transactions B
Print ISSN 0962-8436
Electronic ISSN 1471-2970
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 379
Issue 1901