Interactions between Culturable Bacteria Are Predicted by Individual Species’ Growth

Einat Nestor, Gal Toledano, Jonathan Friedman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Predicting interspecies interactions is a key challenge in microbial ecology given that interactions shape the composition and functioning of microbial communities. However, predicting microbial interactions is challenging because they can vary considerably depending on species’ metabolic capabilities and environmental conditions. Here, we employ machine learning models to predict pairwise interactions between culturable bacteria based on their phylogeny, monoculture growth capabilities, and interactions with other species. We trained our models on one of the largest available pairwise interactions data set containing over 7,500 interactions between 20 species from two taxonomic groups that were cocultured in 40 different carbon environments. Our models accurately predicted both the sign (accuracy of 88%) and the strength of effects (R2 of 0.87) species had on each other’s growth. Encouragingly, predictions with comparable accuracy could be made even when not relying on information about interactions with other species, which are often hard to measure. However, species’ monoculture growth was essential to the model, as predictions based solely on species’ phylogeny and inferred metabolic capabilities were significantly less accurate. These results bring us one step closer to a predictive understanding of microbial communities, which is essential for engineering beneficial microbial consortia.

Original languageAmerican English
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Nestor et al.


  • computational biology
  • machine learning
  • mathematical modeling
  • microbial ecology
  • microbial interactions
  • synthetic microbial communities


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