Article open access publication

In Vitro Community Synergy between Bacterial Soil Isolates Can Be Facilitated by pH Stabilization of the Environment

Applied and Environmental Microbiology, American Society for Microbiology, ISSN 0099-2240

Volume 84, 21, 2018

DOI:10.1128/aem.01450-18, Dimensions: pub.1106343332, PMC: PMC6193382, PMID: 30143509,



  1. (1) University of Copenhagen, grid.5254.6, KU
  2. (2) Aarhus University, grid.7048.b, AU
  3. (3) University of Technology Sydney, grid.117476.2


The composition and development of naturally occurring microbial communities are defined by a complex interplay between the community and the surrounding environment and by interactions between community members. Intriguingly, these interactions can in some cases cause synergies, where the community is able to outperform its single-species constituents. However, the underlying mechanisms driving community interactions are often unknown and difficult to identify due to high community complexity. Here, we show how opposite pH drift induced by specific community members leads to pH stabilization of the microenvironment, acting as a positive interspecies interaction, driving in vitro community synergy in a model consortium of four coisolated soil bacteria, Microbacterium oxydans, Xanthomonas retroflexus, Stenotrophomonas rhizophila, and Paenibacillus amylolyticus We use microsensor pH measurements to show how individual species change the local pH microenvironment and how cocultivation leads to a stabilized pH regime over time. Specifically, in vitro acid production from P. amylolyticus and alkali production primarily from X. retroflexus led to an overall pH stabilization of the local environment over time, which in turn resulted in enhanced community growth. This specific type of interspecies interaction was found to be highly dependent on medium type and concentration; however, similar pH drift from the individual species could be observed across medium variants.IMPORTANCE Understanding interspecies interactions in bacterial communities is important for unraveling species dynamics in naturally occurring communities. These dynamics are fundamental for identifying evolutionary drivers and for the development of efficient biotechnological industry applications. Recently, pH interplay among community members has been identified as a factor affecting community development, and pH stabilization has been demonstrated to result in enhanced community growth. The use of model communities in which the effect of changing pH level can be attributed to specific species contributes to the investigation of community developmental drivers. This contributes to assessment of the extent of emergent behavior and members' contributions to community development. Here, we show that pH stabilization of the microenvironment in vitro in a synthetic coisolated model community results in synergistic growth. This observation adds to the growing diversity of community interactions leading to enhanced community growth and hints toward pH as a strong driver for community development in diverse environments.


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