From endosymbiosis to holobionts: Evaluating a conceptual legacy

J Theor Biol. 2017 Dec 7;434:34-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2017.03.008. Epub 2017 Mar 14.


In her influential 1967 paper, Lynn Margulis synthesized a range of data to support the idea of endosymbiosis. Building on the success of this work, she applied the same methodology to promote the role of symbiosis more generally in evolution. As part of this broader project, she coined the term 'holobiont' to refer to a unified entity of symbiont and host. This concept is now applied with great gusto in microbiome research, and often implies not just a physiological unit but also various senses of an evolving system. My analysis will track how Margulis came to propose the term, its current use in microbiome research, and how those applications link back to Margulis. I then evaluate what contemporary use says about Margulis's legacy for microbiome research.

Keywords: Holism; Homeostasis; Margulis; Microbiome; Microbiota.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Microbiota*
  • Research
  • Symbiosis*
  • Terminology as Topic