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Title: Majority sensing in synthetic microbial consortia

As synthetic biocircuits become more complex, distributing computations within multi-strain microbial consortia becomes increasingly beneficial. However, designing distributed circuits that respond predictably to variation in consortium composition remains a challenge. Here we develop a two-strain gene circuit that senses and responds to which strain is in the majority. This involves a co-repressive system in which each strain produces a signaling molecule that signals the other strain to down-regulate production of its own, orthogonal signaling molecule. This co-repressive consortium links gene expression to ratio of the strains rather than population size. Further, we control the cross-over point for majority via external induction. We elucidate the mechanisms driving these dynamics by developing a mathematical model that captures consortia response as strain fractions and external induction are varied. These results show that simple gene circuits can be used within multicellular synthetic systems to sense and respond to the state of the population.

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Award ID(s):
1936774 1662290 1662305
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Nature Publishing Group
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract Background

    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.


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