Microbiome composition shapes rapid genomic adaptation of Drosophila melanogaster


Population genomic data has revealed patterns of genetic variation associated with adaptation in many taxa. Yet understanding the adaptive process that drives such patterns is challenging; it requires disentangling the ecological agents of selection, determining the relevant timescales over which evolution occurs, and elucidating the genetic architecture of adaptation. Doing so for the adaptation of hosts to their microbiome is of particular interest with growing recognition of the importance and complexity of host–microbe interactions. Here, we track the pace and genomic architecture of adaptation to an experimental microbiome manipulation in replicate populations of Drosophila melanogaster in field mesocosms. Shifts in microbiome composition altered population dynamics and led to divergence between treatments in allele frequencies, with regions showing strong divergence found on all chromosomes. Moreover, at divergent loci previously associated with adaptation across natural populations, we found that the more common allele in fly populations experimentally enriched for a certain microbial group was also more common in natural populations with high relative abundance of that microbial group. These results suggest that microbiomes may be an agent of selection that shapes the pattern and process of adaptation and, more broadly, that variation in a single ecological factor within a complex environment can drive rapid, polygenic adaptation over short timescales.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Microbiomes have profound effects on many aspects of the biology of their hosts. The powerful and widespread nature of these effects has lead to speculation that microbiomes may shape the evolutionary trajectories of host populations. In this study we used a large outdoor experiment to manipulate the microbiome composition of replicate populations of Drosophila to directly test whether divergence in microbiome composition drives divergent rapid adaptation. Using population genomic data we demonstrate that microbiomes drive divergence at dozens of loci genome wide. Moverover, the direction of allele frequency change at these loci mirrors that observed in natural populations that vary in their microbiome composition. Together, these results convincingly demonstrate the powerful effect microbiomes can have on host evolution.


Natural selection can drive evolution over short timescales. However, there is little understanding of which ecological factors are capable of driving rapid evolution and how rapid evolution alters allele frequencies across the genome. Here, we combine a field experiment with population genomic data from natural populations to assess whether and how microbiome composition drives rapid genomic evolution of host populations. We find that differences in microbiome composition cause divergence in allele frequencies genome-wide, including in genes previously associated with local adaptation. Moreover, we observed concordance between experimental and natural populations in terms of the direction of allele frequency change, suggesting that microbiome composition may be an agent of selection that drives adaptation in the wild.