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Microbial spatial self-organization and the spread of plasmid-encoded functional novelty

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UMCW06 - Microbial communities: current approaches and open challenges

Spatial self-organization, where different cell-types arrange themselves non-randomly across space, is a hallmark of surface-associated microbial communities. Metabolic interactions are an important determinant of the spatial self-organization process, where they direct the spatial positionings of individuals. We hypothesized here that these metabolic interaction-induced spatial positionings control the spread of plasmid-encoded functional novelty. Using a combination of experiments and individual-based computational simulations, I will illustrate how metabolic interaction-induced spatial positionings determine both the extent of plasmid transfer (HGT) and the proliferation of new cell-types after plasmid acquisition (VGT). I will also argue how these outcomes are important for predicting and controlling the fate of plasmid-encoded traits within surface-associated microbial communities. Finally, I will highlight new research gaps and propose future areas for scientific inquiry.

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

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