Reconstitution and transmission of gut microbiomes and their genes between generations

Eugene Rosenberg*, Ilana Zilber-Rosenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Microbiomes are transmitted between generations by a variety of different vertical and/or horizontal modes, including vegetative reproduction (vertical), via female germ cells (vertical), coprophagy and regurgitation (vertical and horizontal), physical contact starting at birth (vertical and horizontal), breast-feeding (vertical), and via the environment (horizontal). Analyses of vertical transmission can result in false negatives (failure to detect rare microbes) and false positives (strain variants). In humans, offspring receive most of their initial gut microbiota vertically from mothers during birth, via breast-feeding and close contact. Horizontal transmission is common in marine organisms and involves selectivity in determining which environmental microbes can colonize the organism’s microbiome. The following arguments are put forth concerning accurate microbial transmission: First, the transmission may be of functions, not necessarily of species; second, horizontal transmission may be as accurate as vertical transmission; third, detection techniques may fail to detect rare microbes; lastly, microbiomes develop and reach maturity with their hosts. In spite of the great variation in means of transmission discussed in this paper, microbiomes and their functions are transferred from one generation of holobionts to the next with fidelity. This provides a strong basis for each holobiont to be considered a unique biological entity and a level of selection in evolution, largely maintaining the uniqueness of the entity and conserving the species from one generation to the next.

Original languageEnglish
Article number70
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Gene/function transmis-sion
  • Holobiont
  • Hologenome
  • Horizontal transmission
  • Microbiome
  • Microbiota transmission
  • Vertical transmission


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