Molecular techniques and their limitations shape our view of the holobiont

Zoology (Jena). 2019 Dec;137:125695. doi: 10.1016/j.zool.2019.125695. Epub 2019 Jul 16.


It is now recognised that the biology of almost any organism cannot be fully understood without recognising the existence and potential functional importance of associated microbes. Arguably, the emergence of this holistic viewpoint may never have occurred without the development of a crucial molecular technique, 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing, which allowed microbial communities to be easily profiled across a broad range of contexts. A diverse array of molecular techniques are now used to profile microbial communities, infer their evolutionary histories, visualise them in host tissues, and measure their molecular activity. In this review, we examine each of these categories of measurement and inference with a focus on the questions they make tractable, and the degree to which their capabilities and limitations shape our view of the holobiont.

Keywords: Evolutionary inference; Holobiont; Imaging; Metagenomic sequencing; Model system; Multi-omics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Microbiota*
  • Symbiosis*