Emerging strategies for engineering microbial communities.
From biosynthesis to bioremediation, microbes have been engineered to address a variety of biotechnological applications. A promising direction in these endeavors is harnessing the power of designer microbial consortia that consist of multiple populations with well-defined interactions. Consortia can accomplish tasks that are difficult or potentially impossible to achieve using monocultures. Despite their potential, the rules underlying microbial community maintenance and function (i.e. the task the consortium is engineered to carry out) are not well defined, though rapid progress is being made. This limited understanding is in part due to the greater challenges associated with increased complexity when dealing with multi-population interactions. Here, we review key features and design strategies that emerge from the analysis of both natural and engineered microbial communities. These strategies can provide new insights into natural consortia and expand the toolbox available to engineers working to develop novel synthetic consortia.
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