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Mar 04, 2015
Recent evidence suggests that natural selection operating on hosts to maintain their microbiome contributes to the emergence of new species, that is, the 'hologenomic basis of speciation'. Here we analyse the gut microbiota of two house mice subspecies, Mus musculus musculus and M. m. domesticus, across their Central European hybrid zone, in addition to hybrids generated in the lab. Hybrid mice display widespread transgressive phenotypes (that is, exceed or fall short of parental values) in a variety of measures of bacterial community structure, which reveals the importance of stabilizing selection operating on the intestinal microbiome within species. Further genetic and immunological analyses reveal genetic incompatibilities, aberrant immune gene expression and increased intestinal pathology associated with altered community structure among hybrids. These results provide unique insight into the consequences of evolutionary divergence in a vertebrate 'hologenome', which may be an unrecognized contributing factor to reproductive isolation in this taxonomic group.