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Adv Mater. 2019 Apr 16:e1900284. doi: 10.1002/adma.201900284. [Epub ahead of print]

Artificial Microbial Arenas: Materials for Observing and Manipulating Microbial Consortia.

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Otto Schott Institute of Materials Research, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Fraunhoferstrasse 6, 07743, Jena, Germany.
Center of Energy and Environmental Chemistry Jena (CEEC Jena), Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Philosophenweg 7, 07743, Jena, Germany.
Microverse Cluster, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Neugasse 23, 07743, Jena, Germany.
Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Lessingstrasse 8, 07743, Jena, Germany.
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Strasse 8, 07745, Jena, Germany.
Institute of Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry (IOMC), Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Humboldtstrasse 10, 07743, Jena, Germany.
Jena Center for Soft Matter (JCSM), Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Philosophenweg 7, 07743, Jena, Germany.
Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology (HKI), Adolf-Reichwein-Str. 23, 07745, Jena, Germany.
Institute of Biodiversity, Aquatic Geomicrobiology, Friedrich Schiller University, Dornburger Str. 159, 07743, Jena, Germany.
German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5E, 04103, Leipzig, Germany.


From the smallest ecological niche to global scale, communities of microbial life present a major factor in system regulation and stability. As long as laboratory studies remain restricted to single or few species assemblies, however, very little is known about the interaction patterns and exogenous factors controlling the dynamics of natural microbial communities. In combination with microfluidic technologies, progress in the manufacture of functional and stimuli-responsive materials makes artificial microbial arenas accessible. As habitats for natural or multispecies synthetic consortia, they are expected to not only enable detailed investigations, but also the training and the directed evolution of microbial communities in states of balance and disturbance, or under the effects of modulated stimuli and spontaneous response triggers. Here, a perspective on how materials research will play an essential role in generating answers to the most pertinent questions of microbial engineering is presented, and the concept of adaptive microbial arenas and possibilities for their construction from particulate microniches to 3D habitats is introduced. Materials as active and tunable components at the interface of living and nonliving matter offer exciting opportunities in this field. Beyond forming the physical horizon for microbial cultivates, they will enable dedicated intervention, training, and observation of microbial consortia.


biomaterials; hybrid materials; living materials; microbial arena; microbial engineering; responsive materials; stimuli


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