Engineered Cross feeding in Bacteria Consortia

– We’ve engineered four
different bacterial species to cross-feed animo acids, and as a result of that
we have changed how this microbial consortium behaves
in different environments. In nature, bacteria generally
occur in conglomerates of many different bacterial species, which is what we call microbial consortia, and those microbial consortia are able to fulfill complex tasks like, for example, our gut microbiota. As a synthetic biologist,
we would like to harness those capabilities of microbial consortia, but in order to do that we have
to understand how they work and how we can control them. What we do understand is that the function
of microbial consortia is determined by its composition, and the composition is
governed by the interactions between the different species. Those can be, for example,
antagonistic or neutral or beneficial. So we took a wild-type
microbial consortium that was largely governed by
antagonistic interactions, and we introduced beneficial interactions by engineering cross-feeding
of amino acids. We saw that we changed the
behavior of this consortium in different environments. Specifically, when we perturbed a species in the wild-type consortium, it was unable to recover
to its original abundance, but if we perturbed that species in the engineered consortium,
it was able to recover. So overall we’ve increased the
evenness of this consortium, which is a measure for biodiversity. And I believe that understanding
microbial consortia and being able to control them is the basis for engineering
synthetic consortia that could one day become
smart therapeutics in our gut or multicellular bioproduction factories. (lively electronic music)

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