Many applications of microbial synthetic biology, such as metabolic engineering and biocomputing, are increasing in design complexity. Implementing complex tasks in single populations can be a challenge because large genetic circuits can be burdensome and difficult to optimize. To overcome these limitations, microbial consortia can be engineered to distribute complex tasks among multiple populations. Recent studies have made substantial progress in programming microbial consortia for both basic understanding and potential applications. Microbial consortia have been designed through diverse strategies, including programming mutualistic interactions, using programmed population control to prevent overgrowth of individual populations, and spatial segregation to reduce competition. Here, we highlight the role of microbial consortia in the advances of metabolic engineering, biofilm production for engineered living materials, biocomputing, and biosensing. Additionally, we discuss the challenges for future research in microbial consortia.
© 2021. The Author(s).