Team:British Columbia/ProjectConsortia


British Columbia -

Why Create a Synthetic Consortium?

Synthetic biology attempts to solve real world problems using biological systems. Building synthetic genetic circuits has led to insights into the emergent complexity of genetic regulation when engineering and optimizing metabolic pathways within single cells. In nature, microbes exist in the context of communities to overcome the limitations in consolidating complex tasks. The taxonomically and functionally diverse interactions between microbes mediate processes such as global climate change and the remediation of environmental contamination. Understanding and harnessing the function of microbial communities may be achieved by mimicking natural systems through the design of synthetic consortia. This approach would aim to distribute metabolism and complete tasks that are too difficult for a single organism. Synthetic consortia also open up possibilities in individual pathway compartmentalization, optimization through labor division and precise system regulation.

Assembling a Tunable Consortium

Before compartmentalizing a pathway, this project first aimed to construct a three member tunable microbial consortia. Building from the work by Kerner et al., this will be done by co-culturing three interdependent E.coli auxotrophs which cross-feed through the induction of amino acid biosynthetic genes. Ultimately, the tunable consortium will be applied to the optimization biodesulferization and compared to a single cell approach in a proof-of-concept circuit to demonstrate the potential of synthetic ecology. The proposed experimental system will monitor individual members through constitutive expression of three fluorescent markers. The complementation gene for each auxotroph will be harbored in another member in the population under a unique inducible promoter. The survival and kinetics of the population will then rely on metabolite exchange between members which will be controlled via induction .

Summary Animation

We have created a short animation to summarize our how our consortium functions: