Synthetic microbial consortia for biosynthesis and biodegradation: promises and challenges

  • Shun Che
  • Yujie MenEmail author
Metabolic Engineering and Synthetic Biology - Review


Functional differentiation and metabolite exchange enable microbial consortia to perform complex metabolic tasks and efficiently cycle the nutrients. Inspired by the cooperative relationships in environmental microbial consortia, synthetic microbial consortia have great promise for studying the microbial interactions in nature and more importantly for various engineering applications. However, challenges coexist with promises, and the potential of consortium-based technologies is far from being fully harnessed. Thorough understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms of microbial interactions is greatly needed for the rational design and optimization of defined consortia. These knowledge gaps could be potentially filled with the assistance of the ongoing revolution in systems biology and synthetic biology tools. As current fundamental and technical obstacles down the road being removed, we would expect new avenues with synthetic microbial consortia playing important roles in biological and environmental engineering processes such as bioproduction of desired chemicals and fuels, as well as biodegradation of persistent contaminants.


Microbial consortia Systems biology Synthetic biology Biosynthesis Biodegradation 



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Copyright information

© Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of Illinois Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Genomic BiologyUniversity of Illinois Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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