University of Cambridge > > Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series > Interspecies interactions determine growth dynamics of biopolymer degrading populations in microbial communities.

Interspecies interactions determine growth dynamics of biopolymer degrading populations in microbial communities.

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UMCW06 - Microbial communities: current approaches and open challenges

Microbial communities perform essential ecosystem functions such as the remineralization of organic carbon that exists as biopolymers. These communities are composed of biopolymer degraders, which harbor enzymes that can break down polymers into constituent oligo- or monomeric forms. The released nutrients not only allow degraders to grow, but also promote the assembly of  communities of cells that either consume the breakdown products, i.e., exploiters, or consume metabolites released by the degraders, i.e. scavengers. It is currently not clear how such remineralizing communities assemble at the microscale – how interactions between the different guilds influences their growth and migration, and hence the evolution of the community composition and its activity at different points of time. Here we address this knowledge gap by studying marine microbial communities that grow on the abundant marine biopolymer alginate using a combination of batch growth assays and microfluidics coupled to time-lapse microscopy to quantitatively investigate growth and movement of single cells. We find that the presence of exploiters decreases dispersal and hence increases group formation of degraders. In contrast, the presence of scavengers induced increased dispersal in degrader cells. In general, the presence of cross-feeders slowed down the growth of degrader cells within microbial communities but led to an increase in the total activity of degradative enzymes production by the degraders. Our findings reveal that ecological interactions within microbial communities that grow on natural carbon biopolymers can have functional consequences on the remineralization of organic carbon.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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