Papers in the Biological Sciences


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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2022 Sep 19;98(10):fiac082. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiac082.


The copyright holder for this preprint (which was not certified by peer review) is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. It is made available under aCC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license.



Chronic antibiotic exposure impacts host health through changes to the microbiome, increasing disease risk and reducing the functional repertoire of community members. The detrimental effects of antibiotic perturbation on microbiome structure and function after one host generation of exposure have been well-studied. However, much less is understood about the multigenerational effects of antibiotic exposure and how the microbiome may recover across host generations.


In this study, we examined microbiome composition and host fitness across five generations of exposure to a suite of three antibiotics in the model zooplankton host Daphnia magna. By utilizing a split-brood design where half of the offspring from antibiotic-exposed parents were allowed to recover and half were maintained in antibiotics, we aimed to examine recovery and resilience of the microbiome. Unexpectedly, we discovered that experimental isolation of single host individuals across generations also exerted a strong effect on microbiome composition, with composition becoming less diverse over generations regardless of treatment. Simultaneously, Daphnia magna body size and cumulative reproduction increased across generations while survival decreased. Though antibiotics did cause substantial changes to microbiome composition, the microbiome generally became similar to the no antibiotic control treatment within one generation of recovery no matter how many prior generations were spent in antibiotics.


Contrary to results found in vertebrate systems, Daphnia magna microbiome composition recovers quickly after antibiotic exposure. However, our results suggest that the isolation of individual hosts leads to the stochastic extinction of rare taxa in the microbiome, indicating that these taxa are likely maintained via transmission in host populations rather than intrinsic mechanisms. This may explain the intriguing result that microbiome diversity loss increased host fitness.

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