Cellular interactions are a major driver for the assembly and functioning of microbial communities. Their strengths are shown to be highly variable in nature; however, it is unclear how such variations regulate community behaviors. Here we construct synthetic Lactococcus lactis consortia and mathematical models to elucidate the role of interaction variability in ecosystem succession and to further determine if casting variability into modeling empowers bottom-up predictions. For a consortium of bacteriocin-mediated cooperation and competition, we find increasing the variations of cooperation, from either altered labor partition or random sampling, drives the community into distinct structures. When the cooperation and competition are additionally modulated by pH, ecosystem succession becomes jointly controlled by the variations of both interactions and yields more diversified dynamics. Mathematical models incorporating variability successfully capture all of these experimental observations. Our study demonstrates interaction variability as a key regulator of community dynamics, providing insights into bottom-up predictions of microbial ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number309
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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