Barua, N. et al. 2021. Frontiers in Microbiology

Simultaneous discovery of positive and negative interactions among root microbiome bacteria using microwell recovery arrays

Niloy Barua, Ashlee M. Herken, Kyle R. Stern, Sean Reese, Roger L. Powers, Jennifer L. Morrell-Falvey, Thomas G. Platt, and Ryan R. Hansen
5 January 2021, Frontiers in Microbiology 11: 601788;


Understanding microbe-microbe interactions is critical to predict microbiome function and to construct communities for desired outcomes. Investigation of these interactions poses a significant challenge due to the lack of suitable experimental tools available. Here we present the microwell recovery array (MRA), a new technology platform that screens interactions across a microbiome to uncover higher-order strain combinations that inhibit or promote the function of a focal species. One experimental trial generates 104 microbial communities that contain the focal species and a distinct random sample of uncharacterized cells from plant rhizosphere. Cells are sequentially recovered from individual wells that display highest or lowest levels of focal species growth using a high-resolution photopolymer extraction system. Interacting species are then identified and putative interactions are validated. Using this approach, we screen the poplar rhizosphere for strains affecting the growth of Pantoea sp. YR343, a plant growth promoting bacteria isolated from Populus deltoides rhizosphere. In one screen, we montiored 3,600 microwells within the array to uncover multiple antagonistic Stenotrophomonas strains and a set of Enterobacter strains that promoted YR343 growth. The later demonstrates the unique ability of the platform to discover multi-membered consortia that generate emergent outcomes, thereby expanding the range of phenotypes that can be characterized from microbiomes. This knowledge will aid in the development of consortia for Populus production, while the platform offers a new approach for screening and discovery of microbial interactions, applicable to any microbiome.


Barua, N. et al. Simultaneous discovery of positive and negative interactions among root microbiome bacteria using microwell recovery arrays. Front Micro (2021). doi:10.3389/fmicb.2020.601788

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