Conspecific versus heterospecific transmission shapes host specialization of the phyllosphere microbiome

Kyle M. Meyer, Isabella E. Muscettola, Ana Luisa S. Vasconcelos, Julia K. Sherman, C. Jessica E. Metcalf, Steven E. Lindow, Britt Koskella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In disease ecology, pathogen transmission among conspecific versus heterospecific hosts is known to shape pathogen specialization and virulence, but we do not yet know if similar effects occur at the microbiome level. We tested this idea by experimentally passaging leaf-associated microbiomes either within conspecific or across heterospecific plant hosts. Although conspecific transmission results in persistent host-filtering effects and more within-microbiome network connections, heterospecific transmission results in weaker host-filtering effects but higher levels of interconnectivity. When transplanted onto novel plants, heterospecific lines are less differentiated by host species than conspecific lines, suggesting a shift toward microbiome generalism. Finally, conspecific lines from tomato exhibit a competitive advantage on tomato hosts against those passaged on bean or pepper, suggesting microbiome-level host specialization. Overall, we find that transmission mode and previous host history shape microbiome diversity, with repeated conspecific transmission driving microbiome specialization and repeated heterospecific transmission promoting microbiome generalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2067-2079.e5
JournalCell Host and Microbe
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 13 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Virology
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology


  • community coalescence
  • experimental evolution
  • microbiome assembly
  • microbiome engineering
  • microbiome generalism
  • microbiome passaging
  • microbiome specialization
  • microbiome transmission
  • phyllosphere


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