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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 30;8(10):e77617. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077617. eCollection 2013.

Metabolic proximity in the order of colonization of a microbial community.

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  • 1Bioinformatics Program, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.

Abstract

Microbial biofilms are often composed of multiple bacterial species that accumulate by adhering to a surface and to each other. Biofilms can be resistant to antibiotics and physical stresses, posing unresolved challenges in the fight against infectious diseases. It has been suggested that early colonizers of certain biofilms could cause local environmental changes, favoring the aggregation of subsequent organisms. Here we ask whether the enzyme content of different microbes in a well-characterized dental biofilm can be used to predict their order of colonization. We define a metabolic distance between different species, based on the overlap in their enzyme content. We next use this metric to quantify the average metabolic distance between neighboring organisms in the biofilm. We find that this distance is significantly smaller than the one observed for a random choice of prokaryotes, probably reflecting the environmental constraints on metabolic function of the community. More surprisingly, this metabolic metric is able to discriminate between observed and randomized orders of colonization of the biofilm, with the observed orders displaying smaller metabolic distance than randomized ones. By complementing these results with the analysis of individual vs. joint metabolic networks, we find that the tendency towards minimal metabolic distance may be counter-balanced by a propensity to pair organisms with maximal joint potential for synergistic interactions. The trade-off between these two tendencies may create a "sweet spot" of optimal inter-organism distance, with possible broad implications for our understanding of microbial community organization.

PMID:
24204896
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3813667
Free PMC Article
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