High Throughput Co-culture Assays for the Investigation of Microbial Interactions

J Vis Exp. 2019 Oct 15:(152):10.3791/60275. doi: 10.3791/60275.


The study of interactions between microorganisms has led to numerous discoveries, from novel antimicrobials to insights in microbial ecology. Many approaches used for the study of microbial interactions require specialized equipment and are expensive and time intensive. This paper presents a protocol for co-culture interaction assays that are inexpensive, scalable to large sample numbers, and easily adaptable to numerous experimental designs. Microorganisms are cultured together, with each well representing one pairwise combination of microorganisms. A test organism is cultured on one side of each well and first incubated in monoculture. Subsequently, target organisms are simultaneously inoculated onto the opposite side of each well using a 3D-printed inoculation stamp. After co-culture, the completed assays are scored for visual phenotypes, such as growth or inhibition. These assays can be used to confirm phenotypes or identify patterns among isolates of interest. Using this simple and effective method, users can analyze combinations of microorganisms rapidly and efficiently. This co-culture approach is applicable to antibiotic discovery as well as culture-based microbiome research and has already been successfully applied to both applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Actinobacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Actinobacteria / metabolism*
  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Coculture Techniques / methods
  • Humans
  • Microbial Interactions / physiology*
  • Microbiota / physiology
  • Nasal Cavity / microbiology