Nutrient Exchange of Carbon and Nitrogen Promotes the Formation of Stable Mutualisms Between Chlorella sorokiniana and Saccharomyces cerevisiae Under Engineered Synthetic Growth Conditions

Front Microbiol. 2019 Mar 26;10:609. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.00609. eCollection 2019.


Microbial biotechnological processes can be based on single species pure cultures or on multi-species assemblages. While these assemblages can be advantageous by offering more functionalities and more resilience to changing environmental conditions, they can be unpredictable and difficult to control under synthetically engineered growth conditions. To overcome the unpredictable nature of these microbial assemblages, the generation of stable mutualistic systems through synthetic ecology approaches may provide novel solutions for understanding microbial interactions in these environments. Here we establish a stable association between two evolutionarily unrelated, but biotechnologically complementary species isolated from winery wastewater; a strain of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and microalga, Chlorella sorokiniana. Yeast and microalgae were able to form obligate (interdependent) and non-obligate (facultative) mutualisms under engineered batch co-culture growth conditions. Obligate mutualism was maintained through the reciprocal exchange of carbon and nitrogen where the yeast ferments mannose to produce carbon dioxide for use by the microalga; and the microalga provides the yeast with nitrogen by metabolizing nitrite to ammonium. The effect of temperature and pH on the establishment of these mutualisms was evaluated and pH was found to be a key determinant for mutualism formation under obligatory conditions. Moreover, the combinations of the two species under non-obligatory growth conditions led to improvement in growth rate and biomass production when compared to single species cultures grown under the same conditions. Such engineered mutualisms are the first step in developing stable multi-species assemblages, while providing a system to generate novel insight into the evolution of mutualistic interactions between phylogenetically distant microorganisms.

Keywords: engineered; microalgae; mutualism; obligatory; synthetic; yeast.