skip to main content

Title: Transcriptional programming in a Bacteroides consortium

Bacteroidesspecies are prominent members of the human gut microbiota. The prevalence and stability ofBacteroidesin humans make them ideal candidates to engineer as programmable living therapeutics. Here we report a biotic decision-making technology in a community ofBacteroides(consortium transcriptional programming) with genetic circuit compression. Circuit compression requires systematic pairing of engineered transcription factors with cognate regulatable promoters. In turn, we demonstrate the compression workflow by designing, building, and testing all fundamental two-input logic gates dependent on the inputs isopropyl-β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside and D-ribose. We then deploy complete sets of logical operations in five human donorBacteroides, with which we demonstrate sequential gain-of-function control in co-culture. Finally, we couple transcriptional programs with CRISPR interference to achieve loss-of-function regulation of endogenous genes—demonstrating complex control over community composition in co-culture. This work provides a powerful toolkit to program gene expression inBacteroidesfor the development of bespoke therapeutic bacteria.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
1934836 1921061 2123855 1804639
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Interactions between epithelial and immune cells with the gut microbiota have wide-ranging effects on many aspects of human health. Therefore, there is value in developing in vitro models capable of performing highly controlled studies of such interactions. However, several critical factors that enable long term homeostasis between bacterial and mammalian cultures have yet to be established. In this study, we explored a model consisting of epithelial and immune cells, as well as four different bacterial species (Bacteroides fragilisKLE1958,Escherichia coliMG1655,Lactobacillus rhamnosusKLE2101, orRuminococcus gnavusKLE1940), over a 50 hour culture period. Interestingly, both obligate and facultative anaerobes grew to similar extents in aerobic culture environments during the co-culture period, likely due to measured microaerobic oxygen levels near the apical surface of the epithelia. It was demonstrated that bacteria elicited reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, and that the resulting oxidative damage heavily contributed to observed epithelial barrier damage in these static cultures. Introduction of a ROS scavenger significantly mitigated oxidative damage, improving cell monolayer integrity and reducing lipid peroxidation, although not to control (bacteria-free culture) levels. These results indicate that monitoring and mitigating ROS accumulation and oxidative damage can enable longer term bacteria-intestinal epithelial cultures, while also highlighting the significance of additional factors that impact homeostasis in mammalian cell-bacteria systems.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Resident microorganisms are known to influence the fitness and traits of animals under controlled laboratory conditions, but the relevance of these findings to wild animals is uncertain. This study investigated the host functional correlates of microbiota composition in a wild community of three sympatric species of mycophagous drosophilid flies,Drosophila falleni,Drosophila neotestaceaandDrosophila putrida. Specifically, we quantified bacterial communities and host transcriptomes by parallel 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing and RNA‐Seq of individual flies. Among‐fly variation in microbiota composition did not partition strongly by sex or species, and included multiple modules, that is, sets of bacterial taxa whose abundance varied in concert across different flies. The abundance of bacteria in several modules varied significantly with multiple host transcripts, especially in females, but the identity of the correlated host transcriptional functions differed with host species, including epithelial barrier function inD. falleni, muscle function inD. putrida, and insect growth and development inD. neotestacea. InD. neotestacea,which harbours the endosymbiontsWolbachiaandSpiroplasma,Wolbachiapromotes the abundance ofSpiroplasma,and is positively correlated with abundance of Lactobacillales and Bacteroidales. Furthermore, most correlations between host gene expression and relative abundance of bacterial modules were co‐correlated with abundance ofWolbachia(but notSpiroplasma), indicative of an interdependence between host functional traits, microbiota composition andWolbachiaabundance in this species. These data suggest that, in these natural populations of drosophilid flies, different host species interact with microbial communities in functionally different ways that can vary with the abundance of endosymbionts.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Anaerobic fungi and methanogenic archaea are two classes of microorganisms found in the rumen microbiome that metabolically interact during lignocellulose breakdown. Here, stable synthetic co-cultures of the anaerobic fungusCaecomyces churrovisand the methanogenMethanobacterium bryantii(not native to the rumen) were formed, demonstrating that microbes from different environments can be paired based on metabolic ties. Transcriptional and metabolic changes induced by methanogen co-culture were evaluated inC. churrovisacross a variety of substrates to identify mechanisms that impact biomass breakdown and sugar uptake. A high-quality genome ofC. churroviswas obtained and annotated, which is the first sequenced genome of a non-rhizoid-forming anaerobic fungus.C. churrovispossess an abundance of CAZymes and carbohydrate binding modules and, in agreement with previous studies of early-diverging fungal lineages, N6-methyldeoxyadenine (6mA) was associated with transcriptionally active genes. Co-culture with the methanogen increased overall transcription of CAZymes, carbohydrate binding modules, and dockerin domains in co-cultures grown on both lignocellulose and cellulose and caused upregulation of genes coding associated enzymatic machinery including carbohydrate binding modules in family 18 and dockerin domains across multiple growth substrates relative toC. churrovismonoculture. Two other fungal strains grown on a reed canary grass substrate in co-culture with the same methanogen also exhibited high log2-fold change values for upregulation of genes encoding carbohydrate binding modules in families 1 and 18. Transcriptional upregulation indicated that co-culture of theC. churrovisstrain with a methanogen may enhance pyruvate formate lyase (PFL) function for growth on xylan and fructose and production of bottleneck enzymes in sugar utilization pathways, further supporting the hypothesis that co-culture with a methanogen may enhance certain fungal metabolic functions. Upregulation of CBM18 may play a role in fungal–methanogen physical associations and fungal cell wall development and remodeling.

    more » « less
  4. Objectives/Hypothesis

    Subglottic stenosis (SGS) results from dysregulated extracellular matrix deposition by laryngotracheal fibroblasts causing scar tissue formation following intubation. Recent work has highlighted a relationship between this inflammatory state and imbalances in the upper airway microbiome. Herein, we engineer novel drug‐eluting endotracheal (ET) tubes to deliver a model antimicrobial peptide Lasioglossin‐III (Lasio) for the local modulation of the microbiome during intubation.

    Study Design

    Controlledin vitrostudy.


    ET tubes were coated with a water‐in‐oil (w/o) emulsion of Lasio in poly(d,l‐lactide‐co‐glycolide) (PLGA) by dipping thrice. Peptide release was quantified over 2 weeks via fluorometric peptide assays. The antibacterial activity was tested against airway microbes (Staphylococcus epidermidis,Streptococcus pneumoniae, and pooled human microbiome samples) by placing Lasio/PLGA‐coated tubes and appropriate controls in 48 well plates with diluted bacteria. Bacterial inhibition and tube adhesion were tested by measuring optical density and colony formation after tube culture, respectively. Biocompatibility was tested against laryngotracheal fibroblasts and lung epithelial cells.


    We achieved a homogeneous coating of ET tubes with Lasio in a PLGA matrix that yields a prolonged, linear release over 1 week (typical timeframe before the ET tube is changed). We observed significant antibacterial activity againstS. epidermidis,S. pneumoniae, and human microbiome samples, and prevention of bacterial adherence to the tube. Additionally, the released Lasio did not cause any cytotoxicity toward laryngotracheal fibroblasts or lung epithelial cellsin vitro.


    Overall, we demonstrate the design of an effective‐eluting ET tube to modulate upper‐airway bacterial infections during intubation which could be deployed to help prevent SGS.

    Level of Evidence

    NALaryngoscope, 132:1356–1363, 2022

    more » « less
  5. Abstract Background

    Stable isotope probing (SIP) approaches are a critical tool in microbiome research to determine associations between species and substrates, as well as the activity of species. The application of these approaches ranges from studying microbial communities important for global biogeochemical cycling to host-microbiota interactions in the intestinal tract. Current SIP approaches, such as DNA-SIP or nanoSIMS allow to analyze incorporation of stable isotopes with high coverage of taxa in a community and at the single cell level, respectively, however they are limited in terms of sensitivity, resolution or throughput.


    Here, we present an ultra-sensitive, high-throughput protein-based stable isotope probing approach (Protein-SIP), which cuts cost for labeled substrates by 50–99% as compared to other SIP and Protein-SIP approaches and thus enables isotope labeling experiments on much larger scales and with higher replication. The approach allows for the determination of isotope incorporation into microbiome members with species level resolution using standard metaproteomics liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) measurements. At the core of the approach are new algorithms to analyze the data, which have been implemented in an open-source software ( We demonstrate sensitivity, precision and accuracy using bacterial cultures and mock communities with different labeling schemes. Furthermore, we benchmark our approach against two existing Protein-SIP approaches and show that in the low labeling range used our approach is the most sensitive and accurate. Finally, we measure translational activity using18O heavy water labeling in a 63-species community derived from human fecal samples grown on media simulating two different diets. Activity could be quantified on average for 27 species per sample, with 9 species showing significantly higher activity on a high protein diet, as compared to a high fiber diet. Surprisingly, among the species with increased activity on high protein were severalBacteroidesspecies known as fiber consumers. Apparently, protein supply is a critical consideration when assessing growth of intestinal microbes on fiber, including fiber-based prebiotics.


    We demonstrate that our Protein-SIP approach allows for the ultra-sensitive (0.01 to 10% label) detection of stable isotopes of elements found in proteins, using standard metaproteomics data.

    more » « less