Designing microbial consortia with defined social interactions

Nat Chem Biol. 2018 Aug;14(8):821-829. doi: 10.1038/s41589-018-0091-7. Epub 2018 Jun 25.


Designer microbial consortia are an emerging frontier in synthetic biology that enable versatile microbiome engineering. However, the utilization of such consortia is hindered by our limited capacity in rapidly creating ecosystems with desired dynamics. Here we present the development of synthetic communities through social interaction engineering that combines modular pathway reconfiguration with model creation. Specifically, we created six two-strain consortia, each possessing a unique mode of interaction, including commensalism, amensalism, neutralism, cooperation, competition and predation. These consortia follow distinct population dynamics with characteristics determined by the underlying interaction modes. We showed that models derived from two-strain consortia can be used to design three- and four-strain ecosystems with predictable behaviors and further extended to provide insights into community dynamics in space. This work sheds light on the organization of interacting microbial species and provides a systematic framework-social interaction programming-to guide the development of synthetic ecosystems for diverse purposes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Lactococcus lactis / cytology
  • Lactococcus lactis / genetics
  • Lactococcus lactis / metabolism*
  • Microbial Consortia* / genetics
  • Microbial Interactions* / genetics
  • Microbiota / genetics
  • Synthetic Biology*