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  1. Wilson, Daniel ; Parkhill, Julian (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT A goal of modern biology is to develop the genotype-phenotype (G→P) map, a predictive understanding of how genomic information generates trait variation that forms the basis of both natural and managed communities. As microbiome research advances, however, it has become clear that many of these traits are symbiotic extended phenotypes , being governed by genetic variation encoded not only by the host’s own genome, but also by the genomes of myriad cryptic symbionts. Building a reliable G→P map therefore requires accounting for the multitude of interacting genes and even genomes involved in symbiosis. Here, we use naturally occurring genetic variation in 191 strains of the model microbial symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti paired with two genotypes of the host Medicago truncatula in four genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to determine the genomic architecture of a key symbiotic extended phenotype— partner quality , or the fitness benefit conferred to a host by a particular symbiont genotype, within and across environmental contexts and host genotypes. We define three novel categories of loci in rhizobium genomes that must be accounted for if we want to build a reliable G→P map of partner quality; namely, (i) loci whose identities depend on the environment, (ii) those that depend on the host genotype with which rhizobia interact, and (iii) universal loci that are likely important in all or most environments. IMPORTANCE Given the rapid rise of research on how microbiomes can be harnessed to improve host health, understanding the contribution of microbial genetic variation to host phenotypic variation is pressing, and will better enable us to predict the evolution of (and select more precisely for) symbiotic extended phenotypes that impact host health. We uncover extensive context-dependency in both the identity and functions of symbiont loci that control host growth, which makes predicting the genes and pathways important for determining symbiotic outcomes under different conditions more challenging. Despite this context-dependency, we also resolve a core set of universal loci that are likely important in all or most environments, and thus, serve as excellent targets both for genetic engineering and future coevolutionary studies of symbiosis. 
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  2. Abstract

    Symbiosis often occurs between partners with distinct life history characteristics and dispersal mechanisms. Many bacterial symbionts have genomes comprising multiple replicons with distinct rates of evolution and horizontal transmission. Such differences might drive differences in population structure between hosts and symbionts and among the elements of the divided genomes of bacterial symbionts. These differences might, in turn, shape the evolution of symbiotic interactions and bacterial evolution. Here we use whole genome resequencing of a hierarchically structured sample of 191 strains ofSinorhizobium meliloticollected from 21 locations in southern Europe to characterize population structures of this bacterial symbiont, which forms a root nodule symbiosis with the host plantMedicago truncatula.S. melilotigenomes showed high local (within‐site) variation and little isolation by distance. This was particularly true for the two symbiosis elements, pSymA and pSymB, which have population structures that are similar to each other, but distinct from both the bacterial chromosome and the host plant. Given limited recombination on the chromosome, compared to the symbiosis elements, distinct population structures may result from differences in effective gene flow. Alternatively, positive or purifying selection, with little recombination, may explain distinct geographical patterns at the chromosome. Discordant population structure between hosts and symbionts indicates that geographically and genetically distinct host populations in different parts of the range might interact with genetically similar symbionts, potentially minimizing local specialization.

     
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