Engineered bidirectional communication mediates a consensus in a microbial biofilm consortium.
ABSTRACT Microbial consortia form when multiple species colocalize and communally generate a function that none is capable of alone. Consortia abound in nature, and their cooperative metabolic activities influence everything from biodiversity in the global food chain to human weight gain. Here, we present an engineered consortium in which the microbial members communicate with each other and exhibit a "consensus" gene expression response. Two colocalized populations of Escherichia coli converse bidirectionally by exchanging acyl-homoserine lactone signals. The consortium generates the gene-expression response if and only if both populations are present at sufficient cell densities. Because neither population can respond without the other's signal, this consensus function can be considered a logical AND gate in which the inputs are cell populations. The microbial consensus consortium operates in diverse growth modes, including in a biofilm, where it sustains its response for several days.
SourceAvailable from: Karmella Ann Haynes[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Quorum-sensing networks enable bacteria to sense and respond to chemical signals produced by neighboring bacteria. They are widespread: over 100 morphologically and genetically distinct species of eubacteria are known to use quorum sensing to control gene expression. This diversity suggests the potential to use natural protein variants to engineer parallel, input-specific, cell–cell communication pathways. However, only three distinct signaling pathways, Lux, Las, and Rhl, have been adapted for and broadly used in engineered systems. The paucity of unique quorum-sensing systems and their propensity for crosstalk limits the usefulness of our current quorum-sensing toolkit. This review discusses the need for more signaling pathways, roadblocks to using multiple pathways in parallel, and strategies for expanding the quorum-sensing toolbox for synthetic biology.Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 03/2015; 3(30):1. DOI:10.3389/fbioe.2015.00030
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ABSTRACT: The metabolic capabilities of microbes are the basis for many major biotechnological advances, exploiting microbial diversity by selection or engineering of single strains. However, there are limits to the advances that can be achieved with single strains, and attention has turned toward the metabolic potential of consortia and the field of synthetic ecology. The main challenge for the synthetic ecology is that consortia are frequently unstable, largely because evolution by constituent members affects their interactions, which are the basis of collective metabolic functionality. Current practices in modeling consortia largely consider interactions as fixed circuits of chemical reactions, which greatly increases their tractability. This simplification comes at the cost of essential biological realism, stripping out the ecological context in which the metabolic actions occur and the potential for evolutionary change. In other words, evolutionary stability is not engineered into the system. This realization highlights the necessity to better identify the key components that influence the stable coexistence of microorganisms. Inclusion of ecological and evolutionary principles, in addition to biophysical variables and stoichiometric modeling of metabolism, is critical for microbial consortia design. This review aims to bring ecological and evolutionary concepts to the discussion on the stability of microbial consortia. In particular, we focus on the combined effect of spatial structure (connectivity of molecules and cells within the system) and ecological interactions (reciprocal and non-reciprocal) on the persistence of microbial consortia. We discuss exemplary cases to illustrate these ideas from published studies in evolutionary biology and biotechnology. We conclude by making clear the relevance of incorporating evolutionary and ecological principles to the design of microbial consortia, as a way of achieving evolutionarily stable and sustainable systems.Frontiers in Microbiology 03/2015; 6. DOI:10.3389/fmicb.2015.00143 · 3.94 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The evolutionary design of genetic switches and circuits requires iterative rounds of positive (ON-) and negative (OFF-) selection. We previously reported a rapid OFF selection system based on the kinase activity of herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (hsvTK) on the artificial mutator nucleoside dP. By fusing hsvTK with the kanamycin resistance marker aminoglycoside-(3')-phosphotransferase (APH), we established a novel selector system for genetic switches. Due to the bactericidal nature of kanamycin and nucleoside-based lethal mutagenesis, both positive and negative selection could be completed within several hours. Using this new selector system, we isolated a series of homoserine lactone-inducible genetic switches with different expression efficiencies from libraries of the Vibrio fischeri lux promoter in two days, using only liquid handling.PLoS ONE 03/2015; 10(3):e0120243. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0120243 · 3.53 Impact Factor