Microbial Cell Factories invites you to read our collection on Microbial co-cultures. Microbial co-cultures (consortia) are two or more interacting microbial populations that can be found in many diverse environmental niches. Interest has recently emerged in engineering microbial consortia, because they exhibit appealing features, such as sophisticated metabolic capabilities and robustness, therefore, can perform complicated tasks that are more difficult or even impossible for individual populations. In some cases, balancing multiple tasks so that they are both efficiently completed within a single organism is extremely challenging. Instead, compartmentalizing the molecular components of the entire process in different organisms would allow the metabolism of each cell type to be specifically tuned to the best status, and therefore avoid the need for trade-offs in a single cell type. The existence of such cooperation and division of labor are very common in nature, where organisms establish different kinds of mutual relationships. We can easily find such examples, including bacteria for anaerobic methane oxidation, plants and bacteria for global nitrogen fixation, and gut microbes facilitate food utilization and metabolite transfer in higher animals. It is also noticed that industry has borrowed the ideas from nature to apply microbial consortia in food processing and biological waste treatment. Recently, the synthetic microbial consortia were also built to target biomass utilization, environmental remediation, and natural products.
Since microbial consortia can carry out more complex functions and endure more changeable environments than individual organisms, they represent an important new frontier for synthetic biology. Currently, more and more researchers are developing powerful tools for achieving stable and regulable consortia to fulfill their applications in health, environment and industry.
Mingfeng Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.
Ning He, Xiamen University, China.
Yuanpeng Wang, Xiamen University, China.