Synthetic Biology

Synthetic ecosystems

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Science  15 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6356, pp. 1109-1110
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6356.1109-g

Natural ecosystems can be difficult to study because of the many interactions among organisms. In the laboratory, experimental systems often can only examine a small subset of organisms, which may not represent the true nature of the larger community. To get around these limitations, Amor et al. engineered microbes that are required to exchange amino acids and used them to create synthetic ecosystems representing multiple states of cooperation and parasitism. With these tools, they were able to model and support hypotheses of how stable mutualisms can arise and identify when populations are vulnerable to parasitism. Although the field of synthetic ecosystems is relatively new, the authors suggest that future work can be used to identify and bioengineer environments, such as agricultural soil microbiomes.

PLOS Comput. Biol. 10.1371/journal. pcbi.1005689 (2017).

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