Microbial co-cultures and consortia are of interest in cell-based molecular production and even as “smart” therapeutics in that one can take advantage of division of labor and specialization to expand both the range of available functions and mechanisms for control. The development of tools that enable coordination and modulation of consortia will be crucial for future application of multi-population cultures. In particular, these systems would benefit from an expanded toolset that enables orthogonal inter-strain communication.
We created a co-culture for the synthesis of a redox-active phenazine signaling molecule, pyocyanin (PYO), by dividing its synthesis into the generation of its intermediate, phenazine carboxylic acid (PCA) from the first strain, followed by consumption of PCA and generation of PYO in a second strain. Interestingly, both PCA and PYO can be used to actuate gene expression in cells engineered with the
Our results show that redox-based signaling can be intermingled with other quorum sensing signaling in ways that enable user-defined control of microbial consortia yielding various outcomes defined by culture medium. Further, we demonstrated the utility of our previously designed growth control module in influencing signal propagation and metabolic activity is unimpeded by orthogonal redox-based signaling. By exploring novel multi-modal strategies for guiding communication and consortia outcome, the concepts introduced here may prove to be useful for coordination of multiple populations within complex microbial systems.