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Synthetic ecosystems for deciphering chemical interactions among microbes



Microorganisms communicate chemically, and these chemical interactions underlay a diversity of relationships, from commensalism to antagonism. Because of the specificity of these relationships, it is thought that many microorganisms produce certain metabolites only within a particular consortium. 


We have developed a unique synthetic ecosystem to query the chemical interactions among isolates from wild microbial communities. We capitalize on highly sensitive mass spectrometry available through the Mass Spectrometry and Metabolomics Core at Michigan State to identify secondary metabolites that hallmark interactions among certain combinations of consortia.  These synthetic ecosystems will facilitate natural product discovery, a deeper understanding of microbial chemical communication within consortia, and directed query of the adaptations and evolution required to initiate and maintain microbial relationships.



Left: Constructed communities gyrotory-shaking in the incubator.

Below: MMG graduate student John Chodkowski extracts community metabolites from a time course experiment.

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