Niche partitioning of a pathogenic microbiome driven by chemical gradients


Robert A. Quinn, William Comstock, Tianyu Zhang, James T. Morton, Ricardo da Silva, Alda Tran, Alexander Aksenov, Louis-Felix Nothias, Daniel Wangpraseurt, Alexey V. Melnik, Gail Ackermann, Douglas Conrad, Isaac Klapper, Rob Knight, Pieter C. Dorrestein


Science Advances


Environmental microbial communities are stratified by chemical gradients that shape the structure and function of these systems. Similar chemical gradients exist in the human body, but how they influence these microbial systems is more poorly understood. Understanding these effects can be particularly important for dysbiotic shifts in microbiome structure that are often associated with disease. We show that pH and oxygen strongly partition the microbial community from a diseased human lung into two mutually exclusive communities of pathogens and anaerobes. Antimicrobial treatment disrupted this chemical partitioning, causing complex death, survival, and resistance outcomes that were highly dependent on the individual microorganism and on community stratification. These effects were mathematically modeled, enabling a predictive understanding of this complex polymicrobial system. Harnessing the power of these chemical gradients could be a drug-free method of shaping microbial communities in the human body from undesirable dysbiotic states.



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