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Complex Function by Design Using Spatially Pre-Structured Synthetic Microbial Communities: Degradation of Pentachlorophenol in the Presence of Hg(II)

Kim, Hyun Jung and Du, Wenbin and Ismagilov, Rustem F. (2011) Complex Function by Design Using Spatially Pre-Structured Synthetic Microbial Communities: Degradation of Pentachlorophenol in the Presence of Hg(II). Integrative Biology, 3 (2). pp. 126-133. ISSN 1757-9694. PMCID PMC3005148.

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Naturally occurring microbes perform a variety of useful functions, with more complex processes requiring multiple functions performed by communities of multiple microbes. Synthetic biology via genetic engineering may be used to achieve desired multiple functions, e.g. multistep chemical and biological transformations, by adding genes to a single organism, but this is sometimes not possible due to incompatible metabolic requirements or not desirable in certain applications, especially in medical or environmental applications. Achieving multiple functions by mixing microbes that have not evolved to function together may not work due to competition of microbes, or lack of interactions among microbes. In nature, microbial communities are commonly spatially structured. Here, we tested whether spatial structure can be used to create a community of microbes that can perform a function they do not perform individually or when simply mixed. We constructed a core–shell fiber with Sphingobium chlorophenolicum, a pentachlorophenol (PCP) degrader, in the core layer and Ralstonia metallidurans, a mercuric ion (Hg(II)) reducer, in the shell layer as a structured community using microfluidic laminar flow techniques. We applied a mixture of PCP and Hg(II) to either a simple well-mixed culture broth (i.e. the unstructured community) or the spatially structured core–shell fibers. We found that without spatial structure, the community was unable to degrade PCP in the presence of Hg(II) because S. chlorophenolicum is sensitive to Hg(II). In contrast, with spatial structure in a core–shell fiber system, S. chlorophenolicum in a core layer was protected by R. metallidurans deposited in a shell layer, and the community was able to completely remove both PCP and Hg(II) from a mixture. The appropriate size of the core–shell fiber was determined by the Damköhler number—the timescale of removal of Hg(II) was on the same order of the timescale of diffusion of Hg(II) through the outer layer when the shell layer was on the order of B200 mm. Ultimately, with the ease of a child putting together ‘Legos’ to build a complex structure, using this approach one may be able to put together microorganisms to build communities that perform functions in vitro or even in vivo, e.g. as in a ‘‘microbiome on a pill’’.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Du, Wenbin0000-0002-7401-1410
Ismagilov, Rustem F.0000-0002-3680-4399
Additional Information:© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2011. Received 24th March 2010, Accepted 10th July 2010. First published on the web 17th August 2010. Published as part of a themed issue on Synthetic Biology: Guest Editor Professor John McCarthy. This work was supported by the NSF CRC Grant CHE-0526693 and the NIH Director's Pioneer Award (1DP1 OD003584). Part of this work was performed at the microfluidics facility at the Chicago Materials Science and Research Center (Chicago MRSEC). HJK is a recipient of the Leo P. Kadanoff and Stuart A. Rice Fellowship from the Chicago MRSEC. Mercury analysis was performed by the STAT Analysis Corporation. We thank Chuan He for invaluable discussions and for the use of equipment, Songzi Kou for experimental assistance with the design and implementation of the experiment shown in Fig. 2d and e, and Elizabeth B. Haney and Heidi Park for contributions to writing and editing this manuscript.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NIH1DP1 OD003584
Leo P. Kadanoff and Stuart A. Rice FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:2
PubMed Central ID:PMC3005148
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130821-160722342
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Official Citation:Hyun Jung Kim, Wenbin Du, Rustem F. Ismagilov, Complex function by design using spatially pre-structured synthetic microbial communities: degradation of pentachlorophenol in the presence of Hg(ii), Integrative Biology, Volume 3, Issue 2, February 2011, Pages 126–133,
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:40814
Deposited By: Whitney Barlow
Deposited On:23 Aug 2013 22:20
Last Modified:04 Mar 2020 22:39

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