I will be co-chairing a symposium at the 2017 Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution in Austin TX with my colleague, Sharon Greenblum, on ‘Probing microbiome dynamics.’ We look forward to receiving abstracts on how evolutionary and ecological forces have shaped diversity in the microbiome.
Microbiomes are comprised of many bacterial species with complex interactions and dependencies between community members. Adaptation of microbiomes to rapidly fluctuating environments can result in changes in species diversity and composition, as has been observed in patients with Crohn’s disease and asthma. Individual species within the microbiome experience adaptation too, as evidenced by single-species studies of adaptation in response to specific conditions, for example the evolution of Burkholderia dolosa over the course of an outbreak, or the virulent transformations of E. coli in response to nutrient limi-tation. How these strain-level dynamics play out in a community setting, and what the strain-level signatures of adaptation are in the microbiome, remain open questions. Only recent technological breakthroughs have provided the means to leverage metagenomic data to understand signatures of adaptation at the strain level, such as single nucleotide polymorphisms and gene copy number variants. Such information will illuminate the evolutionary forces shaping microbiome diversity, transforming in turn our ability to manipulate the microbiome to benefit host health. This symposium will focus on probing signatures of adaptation in the microbiome, with special attention paid to novel data sources, statistical methodology, and biological examples.