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Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Volume 67, 2021, Pages 149-157

The sum is greater than the parts: exploiting microbial communities to achieve complex functions

Livia SZaramela1,Oriane Moyne1, Manish Kumar1, Cristal Zuniga1, Juan D Tibocha-Bonilla1,2, Karsten Zengler1,3,4

Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0760, USA.


Multi-species microbial communities are ubiquitous in nature. The widespread prevalence of these communities is due to highly elaborated interactions among their members thereby accomplishing metabolic functions that are unattainable by individual members alone. Harnessing these communal capabilities is an emerging field in biotechnology. The rational intervention of microbial communities for the purpose of improved function has been facilitated in part by developments in multi-omics approaches, synthetic biology, and computational methods. Recent studies have demonstrated the benefits of rational interventions to human and animal health as well as agricultural productivity. Emergent technologies, such as in situ modification of complex microbial community and community metabolic modeling, represent an avenue to engineer sustainable microbial communities. In this opinion, we review relevant computational and experimental approaches to study and engineer microbial communities and discuss their potential for biotechnological applications.

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