Symbiosis as a general principle in eukaryotic evolution

  • Douglas A
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Abstract

Eukaryotes have evolved and diversified in the context of persistent colonization by non-pathogenic microorganisms. Various resident microorganisms provide a metabolic capability absent from the host, resulting in increased ecological amplitude and often evolutionary diversification of the host. Some microorganisms confer primary metabolic pathways, such as photosynthesis and cellulose degradation, and others expand the repertoire of secondary metabolism, including the synthesis of toxins that confer protection against natural enemies. A further route by which microorganisms affect host fitness arises from their modulation of the eukaryotic-signaling networks that regulate growth, development, behavior, and other functions. These effects are not necessarily based on interactions beneficial to the host, but can be a consequence of either eukaryotic utilization of microbial products as cues or host-microbial conflict. By these routes, eukaryote-microbial interactions play an integral role in the function and evolutionary diversification of eukaryotes.

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