Phenotypic responses to interspecies competition and commensalism in a naturally-derived microbial co-culture

Nymul Khan, Yukari Maezato, Ryan S. McClure, Colin J. Brislawn, Jennifer M. Mobberley, Nancy Isern, William B. Chrisler, Lye Meng Markillie, Brett M. Barney, Hyun Seob Song, William C. Nelson, Hans C. Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The fundamental question of whether different microbial species will co-exist or compete in a given environment depends on context, composition and environmental constraints. Model microbial systems can yield some general principles related to this question. In this study we employed a naturally occurring co-culture composed of heterotrophic bacteria, Halomonas sp. HL-48 and Marinobacter sp. HL-58, to ask two fundamental scientific questions: 1) how do the phenotypes of two naturally co-existing species respond to partnership as compared to axenic growth? and 2) how do growth and molecular phenotypes of these species change with respect to competitive and commensal interactions? We hypothesized - and confirmed - that co-cultivation under glucose as the sole carbon source would result in competitive interactions. Similarly, when glucose was swapped with xylose, the interactions became commensal because Marinobacter HL-58 was supported by metabolites derived from Halomonas HL-48. Each species responded to partnership by changing both its growth and molecular phenotype as assayed via batch growth kinetics and global transcriptomics. These phenotypic responses depended on nutrient availability and so the environment ultimately controlled how they responded to each other. This simplified model community revealed that microbial interactions are context-specific and different environmental conditions dictate how interspecies partnerships will unfold.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number297
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Cory Ireland, Margret Romine and Jim Fredrickson for valuable discussions and assistance. This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER), as part of BER’s Genomic Science Program (GSP). This contribution originates from the GSP Foundational Scientific Focus Area (FSFA) at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). A portion of the research was performed using EMSL, a DOE Office of Science User Facility sponsored by BER under user proposal number 49356. PNNL is operated for DOE by Battelle Memorial Institute under contract DE-AC05-76RL01830. Funding support for plasmid construction was provided by the National Science Foundation (Award number CBET-1437758).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).


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