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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2011 Aug;22(4):541-6. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2011.04.018. Epub 2011 May 16.

Ecosystems biology of microbial metabolism.

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Bioinformatics Program, Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, United States.


The metabolic capabilities of many environmentally and medically important microbes can be quantitatively explored using systems biology approaches to metabolic networks. Yet, as we learn more about the complex microbe-microbe and microbe-environment interactions in microbial communities, it is important to understand whether and how system-level approaches can be extended to the ecosystem level. Here we summarize recent work that addresses these challenges at multiple scales, starting from two-species natural and synthetic ecology models, up to biosphere-level approaches. Among the many fascinating open challenges in this field is whether the integration of high throughput sequencing methods and mathematical models will help us capture emerging principles of ecosystem-level metabolic organization and evolution.

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