Designing microbial consortia with defined social interactions

Wentao Kong, David R. Meldgin, James J. Collins, Ting Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)821-829
Number of pages9
JournalNature chemical biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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