Experimental evaluation of the importance of colonization history in early-life gut microbiota assembly

Inés Martínez, Maria X. Maldonado-Gomez, João Carlos Gomes-Neto, Hatem Kittana, Hua Ding, Robert Schmaltz, Payal Joglekar, Roberto Jiménez Cardona, Nathan L. Marsteller, Steven W. Kembel, Andrew K. Benson, Daniel A. Peterson, Amanda E. Ramer-Tait, Jens Walter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


The factors that govern assembly of the gut microbiota are insufficiently understood. Here, we test the hypothesis that inter-individual microbiota variation can arise solely from differences in the order and timing by which the gut is colonized early in life. Experiments in which mice were inoculated in sequence either with two complex seed communities or a cocktail of four bacterial strains and a seed community revealed that colonization order influenced both the outcome of community assembly and the ecological success of individual colonizers. Historical contingency and priority effects also occurred in Rag1 -/- mice, suggesting that the adaptive immune system is not a major contributor to these processes. In conclusion, this study established a measurable effect of colonization history on gut microbiota assembly in a model in which host and environmental factors were strictly controlled, illuminating a potential cause for the high levels of unexplained individuality in host-associated microbial communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere36521
StatePublished - Sep 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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