Ecology has been an actively studied topic recently, along with the rapid development of human microbiota-based technology. Scientists have made remarkable progress using bioinformatics tools to identify species and analyze composition. However, a thorough understanding of interspecies interactions of microbial ecosystems is still lacking, which has been a significant obstacle in the further development of related technologies. In this work, a genetic circuit design principle with synthetic biology approaches is developed to form two-strain microbial consortia with different inter-strain interactions. The microbial systems are well-defined and inducible. Co-culture experiment results show that our microbial consortia behave consistently with previous ecological knowledge and thus serves as excellent model systems to simulate ecosystems with similar interactions. Colony patterns also emerge when co-culturing multiple species on solid media. With the engineered microbial consortia, image-processing based methods were developed to quantify the shape of co-culture colonies and distinguish microbial consortia with different interactions. Factors that affect the population ratios were identified through induction and variations in the inoculation process. Further time-lapse experiments revealed the basic rules of colony growth, composition variation, patterning, and how spatial factors impact the co-culture colony.
- Construction of Synthetic Microbial Consortia for Modeling Ecological Systems