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Creators/Authors contains: "Harcombe, William R."

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  1. Abstract

    Although mutualisms are often studied as simple pairwise interactions, they typically involve complex networks of interacting species. How multiple mutualistic partners that provide the same service and compete for resources are maintained in mutualistic networks is an open question. We use a model bacterial community in which multiple ‘partner strains’ ofEscherichia colicompete for a carbon source and exchange resources with a ‘shared mutualist’ strain ofSalmonella enterica. In laboratory experiments, competingE. colistrains readily coexist in the presence ofS. enterica, despite differences in their competitive abilities. We use ecological modeling to demonstrate that a shared mutualist can create temporary resource niche partitioning by limiting growth rates, even if yield is set by a resource external to a mutualism. This mechanism can extend to maintain multiple competing partner species. Our results improve our understanding of complex mutualistic communities and aid efforts to design stable microbial communities.

  2. Despite broad scientific interest in harnessing the power of Earth’s microbiomes, knowledge gaps hinder their efficient use for addressing urgent societal and environmental challenges. We argue that structuring research and technology developments around a design– build–test–learn (DBTL) cycle will advance microbiome engineering and spur new discoveries of the basic scientific principles governing microbiome function. In this Review, we present key elements of an iterative DBTL cycle for microbiome engineering, focusing on generalizable approaches, including top- down and bottom- up design processes, synthetic and self- assembled construction methods, and emerging tools to analyse microbiome function. These approaches can be used to harness microbiomes for broad applications related to medicine, agriculture, energy and the environment. We also discuss key challenges and opportunities of each approach and synthesize them into best practice guidelines for engineering microbiomes. We anticipate that adoption of a DBTL framework will rapidly advance microbiome- based biotechnologies aimed at improving human and animal health, agriculture and enabling the bioeconomy.