Developmental trajectories of amphibian microbiota: response to bacterial therapy depends on initial community structure

Environ Microbiol. 2017 Apr;19(4):1502-1517. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13707. Epub 2017 Mar 17.


Improving host health through microbial manipulation requires untangling factors that shape the microbiome. There is currently little understanding of how initial community structure may drive the microbiota trajectory across host development or influence bacterial therapy outcomes. Probiotic baths of surface symbionts, Pseudomonas fluorescens and Flavobacterium johnsoniae were administered to 240 tadpoles of the midwife toad, Alytes obstetricans in semi-natural outdoor mesocosms originating from geographically and genetically distinct populations in Switzerland. Host bacterial and fungal assemblages were compared in tadpoles from the pond of origin, across metamorphosis, and in toadlets via microbial fingerprinting. Bacterial and fungal community structures differed significantly among populations and a microbial population signature persisted from the tadpole stage, through metamorphosis, and following probiotic treatment. A minimal core surface microbiota is described by persistence through development and by shared membership across populations. The impact of F. johnsoniae on the tadpole surface microbiome was assessed with shotgun metagenomics. Bacterial therapy reduced abundance, diversity, and functional repertoire compared to untreated controls. A correlation between host skin peptides and microbiota suggests a mechanism of host-directed symbiosis throughout development. Early developmental stages are ideal targets for amphibian bacterial therapy that can govern a microbiome trajectory at critical timepoints and may impact susceptibility to disease.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura / microbiology*
  • Biodiversity
  • Fungi
  • Larva / microbiology
  • Metagenomics
  • Microbiota* / drug effects
  • Probiotics
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Switzerland
  • Symbiosis