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Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Volume 62, 2020, Pages 72-79

Synthetic microbial consortia for small molecule production

Elvira Sgobba, Volker FWendisch

Genetics of Prokaryotes, Faculty of Biology and CeBiTec, Bielefeld University Bielefeld, Germany.

Abstract

Microbial consortia were designed for the production of small molecules with ‘labor’ being divided between two or more microorganisms. Examples of linear designs are substrate conversion preceding target molecule production or subdivision of two consecutive steps of target molecule production. Here, we review synthetic biology design approaches for microbial consortia based on ecological principles and microbial interactions that is, mutualism, and commensalism. Besides highlighting the technical challenges regarding industrial application of synthetic microbial consortia, we forecast the extension of the concept from binary linear to ternary linear and more complex microbial consortia in biotechnological applications. Microbial consortia are here reviewed and proposed as a rational solution toward feedstock accessibility as it has been shown for production of l-lysine, l-pipecolic acid and cadaverine from starch or production of fumarate from microcrystalline cellulose and alkaline pre‐treated corn, or alternatively to establish new multi-step pathway for the production of rosmarinic acid from xylose and glucose.

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