Vertical selection for nuclear and mitochondrial genomes shapes gut microbiota and modifies risks for complex diseases

Physiol Genomics. 2020 Jan 1;52(1):1-14. doi: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00089.2019. Epub 2019 Nov 25.


Here we postulate that the heritability of complex disease traits previously ascribed solely to the inheritance of the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes is broadened to encompass a third component of the holobiome, the microbiome. To test this, we expanded on the selectively bred low capacity runner/high capacity runner (LCR/HCR) rat exercise model system into four distinct rat holobiont model frameworks including matched and mismatched host nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. Vertical selection of varying nuclear and mitochondrial genomes resulted in differential acquisition of the microbiome within each of these holobiont models. Polygenic disease risk of these novel models were assessed and subsequently correlated with patterns of acquisition and contributions of their microbiomes in controlled laboratory settings. Nuclear-mitochondrial-microbiotal interactions were not for exercise as a reporter of health, but significantly noted for increased adiposity, increased blood pressure, compromised cardiac function, and loss of long-term memory as reporters of disease susceptibility. These findings provide evidence for coselection of the microbiome with nuclear and mitochondrial genomes as an important feature impacting the heritability of complex diseases.

Keywords: HCR; LCR; exercise capacity; holobiome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / genetics
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Blood Pressure / genetics
  • Body Weight / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics*
  • Cognition
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome, Mitochondrial*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal
  • Rats
  • Risk Factors
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Ventricular Remodeling / genetics


  • DNA, Mitochondrial