PerspectiveSynthetic Biology

Synthetic communities, the sum of parts

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Science  28 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6251, pp. 924-925
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0876

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Cooperation between cells is one of evolution's fundamental innovations. It allows cells to specialize: Different members of a consortium assume different responsibilities, increasing overall productivity and allowing for more complex behavior than is possible with a single cell or a monoculture (1). These features of natural systems have attracted the attention of synthetic biologists, who have made engineering of cooperation between cells a long-standing goal. On page 986 of this issue, Chen et al. (2) report the creation of a synthetic consortium of cooperating Escherichia coli bacteria. The design principles they demonstrate have important implications for the construction of multicellular synthetic systems.