Karsten Zengler, Professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego, USA
Soil microbial communities are critical drivers of terrestrial carbon cycling and crucial for agriculture. While we have made great progress over the last years to decipher interactions of simple co-cultures, we still lack crucial information needed to design effective interventions and to predict the metabolism of complex communities. For example, we have limited understanding of the metabolic niches within these communities. Understanding these niches within communities provide important mechanistic insights to enable the design of consortia that for example efficiently convert carbon inputs or benefit plant growth. We have developed a revolutionary new approach that predicts competition and substrate preferences within microbial communities, consequently enabling the selective manipulation of the microbiome in complex samples. The approach enhances the design of interventions to selectively alter members within microbial communities, advances our understanding of microbial interactions, and paves the way for optimizing microbial driven outcomes in agriculture.