Lessons from Digestive-Tract Symbioses Between Bacteria and Invertebrates

Annu Rev Microbiol. 2016 Sep 8;70:375-93. doi: 10.1146/annurev-micro-091014-104258. Epub 2016 Jul 15.


In most animals, digestive tracts harbor the greatest number of bacteria in the animal that contribute to its health: by aiding in the digestion of nutrients, provisioning essential nutrients and protecting against colonization by pathogens. Invertebrates have been used to enhance our understanding of metabolic processes and microbe-host interactions owing to experimental advantages. This review describes how advances in DNA sequencing technologies have dramatically altered how researchers investigate microbe-host interactions, including 16S rRNA gene surveys, metagenome experiments, and metatranscriptome studies. Advantages and challenges of each of these approaches are described herein. Hypotheses generated through omics studies can be directly tested using site-directed mutagenesis, and findings from transposon studies and site-directed experiments are presented. Finally, unique structural aspects of invertebrate digestive tracts that contribute to symbiont specificity are presented. The combination of omics approaches with genetics and microscopy allows researchers to move beyond correlations to identify conserved mechanisms of microbe-host interactions.

Keywords: bacteria; beneficial bacteria; digestive tract; invertebrate; omics; symbiosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Invertebrates / microbiology*
  • Invertebrates / physiology
  • Symbiosis*