Top-down and bottom-up cohesiveness in microbial community coalescence

Juan Diaz-Colunga, Nanxi Lu, Alicia Sanchez-Gorostiaga, Chang Yu Chang, Helen S. Cai, Joshua E. Goldford, Mikhail Tikhonov, Álvaro Sánchez

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4 Scopus citations


Microbial communities frequently invade one another as a whole, a phenomenon known as community coalescence. Despite its potential importance for the assembly, dynamics, and stability of microbial consortia, as well as its prospective utility for microbiome engineering, our understanding of the processes that govern it is still very limited. Theory has suggested that microbial communities may exhibit cohesiveness in the face of invasions emerging from collective metabolic interactions across microbes and their environment. This cohesiveness may lead to correlated invasional outcomes, where the fate of a given taxon is determined by that of other members of its community—a hypothesis known as ecological coselection. Here, we have performed over 100 invasion and coalescence experiments with microbial communities of various origins assembled in two different synthetic environments. We show that the dominant members of the primary communities can recruit their rarer partners during coalescence (top-down coselection) and also be recruited by them (bottom-up coselection). With the aid of a consumer-resource model, we found that the emergence of top-down or bottom-up cohesiveness is modulated by the structure of the underlying cross-feeding networks that sustain the coalesced communities. The model also predicts that these two forms of ecological coselection cannot co-occur under our conditions, and we have experimentally confirmed that one can be strong only when the other is weak. Our results provide direct evidence that collective invasions can be expected to produce ecological coselection as a result of cross-feeding interactions at the community level.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2111261119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 8 2022


  • Community coalescence
  • Community cohesiveness
  • Cross-feeding
  • Ecological coselection


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