Metabolic division of labor in microbial systems.
Metabolic pathways are often engineered in single microbial populations. However, the introduction of heterologous circuits into the host can create a substantial metabolic burden that limits the overall productivity of the system. This limitation could be overcome by metabolic division of labor (DOL), whereby distinct populations perform different steps in a metabolic pathway, reducing the burden each population will experience. While conceptually appealing, the conditions when DOL is advantageous have not been rigorously established. Here, we have analyzed 24 common architectures of metabolic pathways in which DOL can be implemented. Our analysis reveals general criteria defining the conditions that favor DOL, accounting for the burden or benefit of the pathway activity on the host populations as well as the transport and turnover of enzymes and intermediate metabolites. These criteria can help guide engineering of metabolic pathways and have implications for understanding evolution of natural microbial communities.
Tsoi, R; Wu, F; Zhang, C; Bewick, S; Karig, D; You, L
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