In vitro community synergy between bacterial soil isolates can be facilitated by pH stabilization of the environment

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Journal Article
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2018, 84 (21)
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© 2018 American Society for Microbiology. 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.
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