Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The human gut harbors a large and complex community of beneficial microbes that remain stable over long periods. This stability is considered critical for good health but is poorly understood. Here we develop a body of ecological theory to help us understand microbiome stability. Although cooperating networks of microbes can be efficient, we find that they are often unstable. Counterintuitively, this finding indicates that hosts can benefit from microbial competition when this competition dampens cooperative networks and increases stability. More generally, stability is promoted by limiting positive feedbacks and weakening ecological interactions. We have analyzed host mechanisms for maintaining stability-including immune suppression, spatial structuring, and feeding of community members-and support our key predictions with recent data.

Original publication

DOI

10.1126/science.aad2602

Type

Journal article

Journal

Science

Publication Date

06/11/2015

Volume

350

Pages

663 - 666

Keywords

Computer Simulation, Ecological and Environmental Phenomena, Gastrointestinal Tract, Humans, Immune Tolerance, Microbial Interactions, Microbiota, Models, Biological