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Microbes Drive Evolution Of Animals And Plants: The Hologenome Concept

Eugene Rosenberg, Ilana Zilber-Rosenberg

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ABSTRACT The hologenome concept of evolution postulates that the holobiont (host plus symbionts) with its hologenome (host genome plus microbiome) is a level of selection in evolution. Multicellular organisms can no longer be considered individuals by the classical definitions of the term. Every natural animal and plant is a holobiont consisting of the host and diverse symbiotic microbes and viruses. Microbial symbionts can be transmitted from parent to offspring by a variety of methods, including via cytoplasmic inheritance, coprophagy, direct contact during and after birth, and the environment. A large number of studies have demonstrated that these symbionts contribute to the anatomy, physiology, development, innate and adaptive immunity, and behavior and finally also to genetic variation and to the origin and evolution of species. Acquisition of microbes and microbial genes is a powerful mechanism for driving the evolution of complexity. Evolution proceeds both via cooperation and competition, working in parallel.