Stagaman, K., Burns, A.R., Guillemin, K., Bohannan, B.J. (2017) The role of adaptive immunity as an ecological filter on the gut microbiota in zebrafish. The ISME Journal. 11:1630-1639.
All animals live in intimate association with communities of microbes, collectively referred to as their microbiota. Certain host traits can influence which microbial taxa comprise the microbiota. One potentially important trait in vertebrate animals is the adaptive immune system, which has been hypothesized to act as an ecological filter, promoting the presence of some microbial taxa over others. Here we surveyed the intestinal microbiota of 68 wild-type zebrafish, with functional adaptive immunity, and 61 rag1- zebrafish, lacking functional B- and T-cell receptors, to test the role of adaptive immunity as an ecological filter on the intestinal microbiota. In addition, we tested the robustness of adaptive immunity's filtering effects to host-host interaction by comparing the microbiota of fish populations segregated by genotype to those containing both genotypes. The presence of adaptive immunity individualized the gut microbiota and decreased the contributions of neutral processes to gut microbiota assembly. Although mixing genotypes led to increased phylogenetic diversity in each, there was no significant effect of adaptive immunity on gut microbiota composition in either housing condition. Interestingly, the most robust effect on microbiota composition was co-housing within a tank. In all, these results suggest that adaptive immunity has a role as an ecological filter of the zebrafish gut microbiota, but it can be overwhelmed by other factors, including transmission of microbes among hosts.