Advancing Our Functional Understanding of Host-Microbiota Interactions : A Need for New Types of Studies
Multicellular life evolved in the presence of microorganisms and formed complex associations with their microbiota, the sum of all associated archaea, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These associations greatly affect the health and life history of the host, which led to a new understanding of “self” and establishment of the “metaorganism” concept.1 The Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1182 aims at elucidating the evolution and function of metaorganisms. Its annual conference, the Young Investigator Research Day (YIRD), serves as a platform for scientists of various disciplines to share novel findings on host–microbiota interactions, thereby providing a comprehensive overview of recent developments and new directions in metaorganism research. Even though we have gained tremendous insights into the composition and dynamics of host‐associated microbial communities and their correlations with host health and disease, it also became evident that moving from correlative toward functional studies is needed to examine the underlying mechanisms of interactions within the metaorganism. Non‐classical model organisms in particular possess significant potential to functionally address many open questions in metaorganism research. Here, we suggest and introduce a roadmap moving from correlation toward a functional understanding of host–microbiota interactions and highlight its potential in emerging ecological, agricultural, and translational medical applications.