NLM IRP Seminar Schedule



Scheduled Seminars on March 26, 2024

Sanasar Babajanyan
11 a.m.
Presentation Title
Microbial diversity and ecological complexity emerging from environmental variation and horizontal gene transfer in a simple mathematical model

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Microbiomes are generally characterized by high diversity of coexisting microbial species and strains that remains stable within a broad range of conditions. However, under fixed conditions, microbial ecology conforms with the exclusion principle under which two populations competing for the same resource within the same niche cannot coexist because the less fit population inevitably goes extinct. To explore the conditions for stabilization of microbial diversity, we developed a simple mathematical model consisting of two competing populations that could exchange a single gene allele via horizontal gene transfer (HGT). We found that, although in a fixed environment, with unbiased HGT, the system obeyed the exclusion principle, in an oscillating environment, within large regions of the phase space bounded by the rates of reproduction and HGT, the two populations coexist. Moreover, depending on the parameter combination, all three major types of symbiosis obtained, namely, pure competition, host-parasite relationship and mutualism. In each of these regimes, certain parameter combinations provided for synergy, that is, a greater total abundance of both populations compared to the abundance of the winning population in the fixed environments. These findings show that basic phenomena that are universal in microbial communities, environmental variation and HGT, provide for stabilization of microbial diversity and ecological complexity.