A combination of synthetic biology and in silico network analysis was used to construct artificial microbial consortia comprised of engineered Escherichia coli strains. The design was based on biomimicry of key ecological roles found in stable, naturally occurring microbial consortia. In silico representations of the artificial communities were used to identify genetic modifications necessary for strategic community division of labor and to predict and interpret experimental interactions between strains. The artificial consortia were studied under both chemostat and biofilm growth conditions and demonstrated partitioning of electron donor and electron acceptor resources as designed. The artificial community metabolic interactions dampened chemostat oscillations associated with metabolic overflow production of inhibitory compounds like acetate highlighting ecological and bioprocess implications of syntrophhic consortia. The engineered community, when cultured as a biofilm, self-assembled into micron-scale spatial regions and represents a new tool for engineering multi-reaction bioprocess systems.
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