Analysis of intestinal microbiota in hybrid house mice reveals evolutionary divergence in a vertebrate hologenome

Jun Wang, Shirin Kalyan, Natalie Steck, Leslie M. Turner, Bettina Harr, Sven Künzel, Marie Vallier, Robert Häsler, Andre Franke, Hans-Heinrich Oberg, Saleh M. Ibrahim, Guntram A. Grassl, Dieter Kabelitz, John F. Baines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (SciVal)


Recent evidence suggests that natural selection operating on hosts to maintain their microbiome contributes to the emergence of new species, that is, the 'hologenomic basis of speciation'. Here we analyse the gut microbiota of two house mice subspecies, Mus musculus musculus and M. m. domesticus, across their Central European hybrid zone, in addition to hybrids generated in the lab. Hybrid mice display widespread transgressive phenotypes (that is, exceed or fall short of parental values) in a variety of measures of bacterial community structure, which reveals the importance of stabilizing selection operating on the intestinal microbiome within species. Further genetic and immunological analyses reveal genetic incompatibilities, aberrant immune gene expression and increased intestinal pathology associated with altered community structure among hybrids. These results provide unique insight into the consequences of evolutionary divergence in a vertebrate 'hologenome', which may be an unrecognized contributing factor to reproductive isolation in this taxonomic group.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6440
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2015


  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • DNA Primers
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome
  • Germany
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Mice
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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