Gut Bacteria Interact and Compete 1


Bernardo Cervantes, Jim Collins and Kristala Prather


This image displays hundreds of bacterial colonies growing on a flat solid substrate viewed from above. The colonies belong to 24 different species of the human gut microbiome, with each species repeated several times across the matrix. Each colony started as ~100 bacteria and has now grown to several billion bacteria after 40hrs of incubation. As the colonies grow radially towards each other, they recognize the presence of different neighboring species and adjust their behavior accordingly. Specifically, this snapshot shows instances of various competitive behaviors between species of bacteria such as nutrient competition, secretion of antimicrobials, and spatial competition.

By imaging the different kinds of bacteria interacting with each other, we are trying to discover new mechanisms to outcompete certain kinds of bacteria. I then intend to use these new mechanisms as tools for studying emergent features of the entire microbiome.