Engineering microbial consortia: a new frontier in synthetic biology

Trends Biotechnol. 2008 Sep;26(9):483-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2008.05.004. Epub 2008 Jul 31.


Microbial consortia are ubiquitous in nature and are implicated in processes of great importance to humans, from environmental remediation and wastewater treatment to assistance in food digestion. Synthetic biologists are honing their ability to program the behavior of individual microbial populations, forcing the microbes to focus on specific applications, such as the production of drugs and fuels. Given that microbial consortia can perform even more complicated tasks and endure more changeable environments than monocultures can, they represent an important new frontier for synthetic biology. Here, we review recent efforts to engineer synthetic microbial consortia, and we suggest future applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Engineering / trends
  • Bioreactors / microbiology
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation / trends
  • Genetic Engineering / statistics & numerical data
  • Genetic Engineering / trends*
  • Humans
  • Industrial Microbiology / trends*