Keystone taxa as drivers of microbiome structure and functioning.

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PubMed ID: 29789680

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Banerjee S, Schlaeppi K, van der Heijden MGA

Nat Rev Microbiol. May 2018. doi: 10.1038/s41579-018-0024-1

COMMENT: Recent studies have shown that microbial communities harbour keystone taxa, which drive community composition and function irrespective of their abundance.

In this Opinion article, Banerjee et al. propose a definition of keystone taxa in microbial ecology: 

Microbial keystone taxa are highly connected taxa that individually or in a guild exert a considerable influence on microbiome structure and functioning irrespective of their abundance across space and time. These taxa have a unique and crucial role in microbial communities, and their removal can cause a dramatic shift in microbiome structure and functioning.

The autohrs also explore the importance of keystone taxa and keystone guilds for microbiome structure and functioning and discuss the factors that determine their distribution and activities and summarize over 200 microbial keystone taxa that have been identified in soil, plant and marine ecosystems, as well as in the human microbiome.

Other important issues about keystone taxa are also discussed:

  • how microbial network analysis can be used to identify keystone taxa, 
  • recent evidences of keystone taxa based on computational inference and empirical evidence, 
  • challenges in identifying keystone taxa, including the characterization and manipulation of such taxa,
  • their influence on microbiome functioning, 
  • factors that may determine their distribution and efficacy.



Javier Velasco