Emergence of collective territorial defense in bacterial communities: horizontal gene transfer can stabilize microbiomes.
Multispecies bacterial communities such as the microbiota of the gastrointestinal tract can be remarkably stable and resilient even though they consist of cells and species that compete for resources and also produce a large number of antimicrobial agents. Computational modeling suggests that horizontal transfer of resistance genes may greatly contribute to the formation of stable and diverse communities capable of protecting themselves with a battery of antimicrobial agents while preserving a varied metabolic repertoire of the constituent species. In other words horizontal transfer of resistance genes makes a community compatible in terms of exoproducts and capable to maintain a varied and mature metagenome. The same property may allow microbiota to protect a host organism, or if used as a microbial therapy, to purge pathogens and restore a protective environment.