Do plant microbiomes shape adaptive potential of their hosts? A hologenomic approach to distribution and adaptation.

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Ida Hartvig


Smithsonian Institute


DKK 1,245,613




Reintegration Fellowships


Explaining why related species have very different abilities to spread, adapt and survive is a central question in evolutionary biology. Plants host a broad range of microorganisms in e.g. their roots and leaves, and these microorganisms are recognized as key to the ability of plants to explore resources in its environment. The hologenome theory states that microorganisms should be considered an integral part of their host, and suggest that adaptive genomic changes in a host also can include changes in its microbiome. I will investigate if a plant's individual genome determines the range and diversity of microorganisms it is able to associate with, and whether any differences in microbiomes between plant species are related to different abilities to spread and adapt.


Describing the correlation between individual plant genotypes and their microbiomes within and among habitats is the first step towards understanding which role microbionts play in plant distribution patterns and adaptation to different habitats. If range and variability of microbiont associations is an expression of adaptability of species, it could provide an alternative explanation to what determines species distribution in plants in addition to already acknowledged biotic and abiotic factors.


I will use orchids and their associated microbiomes as a model system to study the association between wild plant genomes, their microbiont communities and their habitat. Orchid microbiont communities profiles will be generated from bacterial and fungal metagenomic analysis of tissue samples from individual orchids and coupled with host genomic variation using individual level sampling of two orchid species. This will allow me to explore the link between individual plant genotype and microbiont community profiles. To investigate if microbiont community diversity is correlated with ability to spread and adapt, I will generate microbiont community profiles for 20 congeneric orchid species and correlate it with the extent of their distribution areas and the diversity of habitats they use.

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