ABSTRACT: The scope of bioengineering is expanding from the creation of single strains to the design of microbial communities, allowing for division-of-labour, specialised sub-populations and interaction with "wild" microbiomes. However, in the absence of stabilising interactions, competition between microbes inevitably leads to the removal of less fit community members over time. Here, we leverage amensalism and competitive exclusion to stabilise a two-strain community by engineering a strain of Escherichia coli which secretes a toxin in response to competition. We show experimentally and mathematically that such a system can produce stable populations with a composition that is tunable by easily controllable parameters. This system creates a tunable, stable two-strain consortia while only requiring the engineering of a single strain.
Project description:Ecological communities comprise diverse species and their interactions. Notably, ecological and evolutionary studies have revealed that reciprocal interactions such as predator-prey, competition, and mutualism, are key drivers of community dynamics. However, there is an argument that many species interactions are asymmetric, where one species unilaterally affects another species (amensalism or commensalism). This raises the unanswered question of what is the role of unilateral interactions in community dynamics. Here I use a theoretical approach to demonstrate that unilateral interactions greatly enhance community stability. The results suggested that amensalism and commensalism were more stabilizing than symmetrical interactions, such as competition and mutualism, but they were less stabilizing than an asymmetric antagonistic interaction. A mix of unilateral interactions increased stability. Furthermore, in communities with all interaction types, unilateral interactions tended to increase stability. This study suggests that unilateral interactions play a major role in maintaining communities, underlining the need to further investigate their roles in ecosystem dynamics.
Project description:Human activities are rapidly changing the structure and function of coastal marine ecosystems. Large-scale replacement of kelp forests and coral reefs with turf algal mats is resulting in homogenous habitats that have less ecological and human value. Ocean acidification has strong potential to substantially favour turf algae growth, which led us to examine the mechanisms that stabilise turf algal states. Here we show that ocean acidification promotes turf algae over corals and macroalgae, mediating new habitat conditions that create stabilising feedback loops (altered physicochemical environment and microbial community, and an inhibition of recruitment) capable of locking turf systems in place. Such feedbacks help explain why degraded coastal habitats persist after being initially pushed past the tipping point by global and local anthropogenic stressors. An understanding of the mechanisms that stabilise degraded coastal habitats can be incorporated into adaptive management to better protect the contribution of coastal systems to human wellbeing.
Project description:PARP1 regulates the repair of DNA single-strand breaks generated directly, or during base excision repair (BER). However, the role of PARP2 in these and other repair mechanisms is unknown. Here, we report a requirement for PARP2 in stabilising replication forks that encounter BER intermediates through Fbh1-dependent regulation of Rad51. Whereas PARP2 is dispensable for tolerance of cells to SSBs or homologous recombination dysfunction, it is redundant with PARP1 in BER. Therefore, combined disruption of PARP1 and PARP2 leads to defective BER, resulting in elevated levels of replication-associated DNA damage owing to an inability to stabilise Rad51 at damaged replication forks and prevent uncontrolled DNA resection. Together, our results demonstrate how PARP1 and PARP2 regulate two independent, but intrinsically linked aspects of DNA base damage tolerance by promoting BER directly, and by stabilising replication forks that encounter BER intermediates.
Project description:It is well-established that the Coriolis force that acts on fluid in a rotating system can act to stabilise otherwise unstable flows. Chandrasekhar considered theoretically the effect of the Coriolis force on the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, which occurs at the interface between a dense fluid lying on top of a lighter fluid under gravity, concluding that rotation alone could not stabilise this system indefinitely. Recent numerical work suggests that rotation may, nevertheless, slow the growth of the instability. Experimental verification of these results using standard techniques is problematic, owing to the practical difficulty in establishing the initial conditions. Here, we present a new experimental technique for studying the Rayleigh-Taylor instability under rotation that side-steps the problems encountered with standard techniques by using a strong magnetic field to destabilize an otherwise stable system. We find that rotation about an axis normal to the interface acts to retard the growth rate of the instability and stabilise long wavelength modes; the scale of the observed structures decreases with increasing rotation rate, asymptoting to a minimum wavelength controlled by viscosity. We present a critical rotation rate, dependent on Atwood number and the aspect ratio of the system, for stabilising the most unstable mode.
Project description:We have tested the effect of all 20 proteinogenic amino acids on the activity of the M2 isoenzyme of pyruvate kinase (M2PYK) and show that, within physiologically relevant concentrations, phenylalanine, alanine, tryptophan, methionine, valine, and proline act as inhibitors, while histidine and serine act as activators. Size exclusion chromatography has been used to show that all amino acids, whether activators or inhibitors, stabilise the tetrameric form of M2PYK. In the absence of amino-acid ligands an apparent tetramer-monomer dissociation Kd is estimated to be ?0.9?µM with a slow dissociation rate (t1/2???15?min). X-ray structures of M2PYK complexes with alanine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan show the M2PYK locked in an inactive T-state conformation, while activators lock the M2PYK tetramer in the active R-state conformation. Amino-acid binding in the allosteric pocket triggers rigid body rotations (11°) stabilising either T or R states. The opposing inhibitory and activating effects of the non-essential amino acids serine and alanine suggest that M2PYK could act as a rapid-response nutrient sensor to rebalance cellular metabolism. This competition at a single allosteric site between activators and inhibitors provides a novel regulatory mechanism by which M2PYK activity is finely tuned by the relative (but not absolute) concentrations of activator and inhibitor amino acids. Such 'allostatic' regulation may be important in metabolic reprogramming and influencing cell fate.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Red Queen dynamics are defined as long term co-evolutionary dynamics, often with oscillations of genotype abundances driven by fluctuating selection in host-parasite systems. Much of our current understanding of these dynamics is based on theoretical concepts explored in mathematical models that are mostly (i) deterministic, inferring an infinite population size and (ii) evolutionary, thus ecological interactions that change population sizes are excluded. Here, we recall the different mathematical approaches used in the current literature on Red Queen dynamics. We then compare models from game theory (evo) and classical theoretical ecology models (eco-evo), that are all derived from individual interactions and are thus intrinsically stochastic. We assess the influence of this stochasticity through the time to the first loss of a genotype within a host or parasite population. RESULTS:The time until the first genotype is lost ("extinction time"), is shorter when ecological dynamics, in the form of a changing population size, is considered. Furthermore, when individuals compete only locally with other individuals extinction is even faster. On the other hand, evolutionary models with a fixed population size and competition on the scale of the whole population prolong extinction and therefore stabilise the oscillations. The stabilising properties of intra-specific competitions become stronger when population size is increased and the deterministic part of the dynamics gain influence. In general, the loss of genotype diversity can be counteracted with mutations (or recombination), which then allow the populations to recurrently undergo negative frequency-dependent selection dynamics and selective sweeps. CONCLUSION:Although the models we investigated are equal in their biological motivation and interpretation, they have diverging mathematical properties both in the derived deterministic dynamics and the derived stochastic dynamics. We find that models that do not consider intraspecific competition and that include ecological dynamics by letting the population size vary, lose genotypes - and thus Red Queen oscillations - faster than models with competition and a fixed population size.
Project description:Self-assembling peptides have the ability to spontaneously aggregate into large ordered structures. The reversibility of the peptide hydrogen bonded supramolecular assembly make them tunable to a host of different applications, although it leaves them highly dynamic and prone to disassembly at the low concentration needed for biological applications. Here we demonstrate that a secondary hydrophobic interaction, near the peptide core, can stabilise the highly dynamic peptide bonds, without losing the vital solubility of the systems in aqueous conditions. This hierarchical self-assembly process can be used to stabilise a range of different ?-sheet hydrogen bonded architectures.
Project description:Permafrost represents a reservoir for the biodiscovery of cold-adapted proteins which are advantageous in industrial and medical settings. Comparisons between different thermo-adapted proteins can give important information for cold-adaptation bioengineering. We collected permafrost active layer samples from 34 points along a proglacial transect in southwest Greenland. We obtained a deep read coverage assembly (>164x) from nanopore and Illumina sequences for the purposes of i) analysing metagenomic and metatranscriptomic trends of the microbial community of this area, and ii) creating the Cold-Adapted Predicted Protein (CAPP) database. The community showed a similar taxonomic composition in all samples along the transect, with a solid permafrost-shaped community, rather than microbial trends typical of proglacial systems. We retrieved 69 high- and medium-quality metagenome-assembled clusters, 213 complete biosynthetic gene clusters and more than three million predicted proteins. The latter constitute the CAPP database that can provide cold-adapted protein sequence information for protein- and taxon-focused amino acid sequence modifications for the future bioengineering of cold-adapted enzymes. As an example, we focused on the enzyme polyphenol oxidase, and demonstrated how sequence variation information could inform its protein engineering.
Project description:Tetramethylammonium-degrading methanogenic consortia from a complete-mixing suspended sludge (CMSS) and an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactors were studied using multiple PCR-based molecular techniques and shotgun proteomic approach. The prokaryotic 16S rRNA genes of the consortia were analyzed by quantitative PCR, high-throughput sequencing, and DGGE-cloning methods. The results showed that methanogenic archaea were highly predominant in both reactors but differed markedly according to community structure. Community and proteomic analysis revealed that Methanomethylovorans and Methanosarcina were the major players for the demethylation of methylated substrates and methane formation through the reduction pathway of methyl-S-CoM and possibly, acetyl-CoA synthase/decarbonylase-related pathways. Unlike high dominance of one Methanomethylovorans population in the CMSS reactor, diverse methylotrophic Methanosarcina species inhabited in syntrophy-like association with hydrogenotrophic Methanobacterium in the granular sludge of UASB reactor. The overall findings indicated the reactor-dependent community structures of quaternary amines degradation and provided microbial insight for the improved understanding of engineering application.
Project description:Detailed knowledge on the fate of dietary components inside the human intestinal tract is lacking. Access to this inner world of digestion is now possible through novel human gastrointestinal sampling capsules. Due to the novelty of such devices, no methodology has been published to stabilise and analyse the resulting samples. A complicating factor is that excretion of such capsules in faeces may take days, while degradation of the dietary components continues. Therefore a stabilising reagent should be pre-loaded in the capsule to ensure the measurement of a representative sample. Considering the small volume of recovered samples, analytical methods must be optimized to collect as many data as possible from little material. We present a complete workflow for stabilising and analysing the fermentation status of dietary fibres in such samples, including microbiota, fibre degradation, and short chain fatty acids. The final quenching reagent was designed based on safety and effectiveness to inhibit fructo- and galacto-oligosaccharides degradation and short chain fatty acids production by human ileostomy microbiota, and subsequently validated in faecal samples. The final composition of the stock quenching reagent is 175 mM Tris, 525 mM NaCl, 35 mM EDTA, 12% SDS, and 8 M urea at pH 8.5.