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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Dec 15;112(50):15450-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1506034112. Epub 2015 Nov 30.

Networks of energetic and metabolic interactions define dynamics in microbial communities.

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Department of Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego, CA 92091.
Department of Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego, CA 92091


Microorganisms form diverse communities that have a profound impact on the environment and human health. Recent technological advances have enabled elucidation of community diversity at high resolution. Investigation of microbial communities has revealed that they often contain multiple members with complementing and seemingly redundant metabolic capabilities. An understanding of the communal impacts of redundant metabolic capabilities is currently lacking; specifically, it is not known whether metabolic redundancy will foster competition or motivate cooperation. By investigating methanogenic populations, we identified the multidimensional interspecies interactions that define composition and dynamics within syntrophic communities that play a key role in the global carbon cycle. Species-specific genomes were extracted from metagenomic data using differential coverage binning. We used metabolic modeling leveraging metatranscriptomic information to reveal and quantify a complex intertwined system of syntrophic relationships. Our results show that amino acid auxotrophies create additional interdependencies that define community composition and control carbon and energy flux through the system while simultaneously contributing to overall community robustness. Strategic use of antimicrobials further reinforces this intricate interspecies network. Collectively, our study reveals the multidimensional interactions in syntrophic communities that promote high species richness and bolster community stability during environmental perturbations.


interspecies interactions; metabolic modeling; methanogens; microbial communities; microbiome

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