Design of synthetic bacterial communities for predictable plant phenotypes

Sur Herrera Paredes, Tianxiang Gao, Theresa F. Law, Omri M. Finkel, Tatiana Mucyn, Paulo José Pereira Lima Teixeira, Isaí Salas González, Meghan E. Feltcher, Matthew J. Powers, Elizabeth A. Shank, Corbin D. Jones, Vladimir Jojic, Jeffery L. Dangl*, Gabriel Castrillo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Specific members of complex microbiota can influence host phenotypes, depending on both the abiotic environment and the presence of other microorganisms. Therefore, it is challenging to define bacterial combinations that have predictable host phenotypic outputs. We demonstrate that plant–bacterium binary-association assays inform the design of small synthetic communities with predictable phenotypes in the host. Specifically, we constructed synthetic communities that modified phosphate accumulation in the shoot and induced phosphate starvation–responsive genes in a predictable fashion. We found that bacterial colonization of the plant is not a predictor of the plant phenotypes we analyzed. Finally, we demonstrated that characterizing a subset of all possible bacterial synthetic communities is sufficient to predict the outcome of untested bacterial consortia. Our results demonstrate that it is possible to infer causal relationships between microbiota membership and host phenotypes and to use these inferences to rationally design novel communities.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2003962
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Herrera Paredes et al.


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