(309b) Communication and Collaboration in Synthetic Microbial Communities

Authors: 
Collins, C. H., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The biosynthesis of compounds of medical and industrial importance often requires engineering and optimization of complex metabolic pathways. Traditionally, these processes have employed a clonal population of recombinant microbes. There are many limitations of using a single population of microorganism that could be alleviated or addressed by using a mixed community, including metabolic load and the number of exogenous elements that can be cloned and optimized in a single cell. In order to control interactions required for these cells to work together, it is important to generate robust communication pathways between biotechnologically relevant species. To this end, we have developed new regulatory components and systems that can be used to turn gene expression on or off in response to a cell-cell communication signal, and enable interspecies communication between representative Gram-negative (Escherichia coli) and Gram-positive (Bacillus megaterium) organisms. We are also employing new strategies to control the growth and coexistence of species in co-cultures by manipulating ecological interactions; a key challenge for applications with microbial consortia. Finally, I will describe our recent efforts to distribute functions between these microbes in a model bioprocess. This work has yielded a set of key technologies enabling the division of labor between specialized species and strains for bioprocessing and a broad range of other applications.