Optogenetic Control of Microbial Consortia Populations for Chemical Production

Makoto A. Lalwani, Hinako Kawabe, Rebecca L. Mays, Shannon M. Hoffman, José L. Avalos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Microbial co-culture fermentations can improve chemical production from complex biosynthetic pathways over monocultures by distributing enzymes across multiple strains, thereby reducing metabolic burden, overcoming endogenous regulatory mechanisms, or exploiting natural traits of different microbial species. However, stabilizing and optimizing microbial subpopulations for maximal chemical production remains a major obstacle in the field. In this study, we demonstrate that optogenetics is an effective strategy to dynamically control populations in microbial co-cultures. Using a new optogenetic circuit we call OptoTA, we regulate an endogenous toxin-antitoxin system, enabling tunability of Escherichia coli growth using only blue light. With this system we can control the population composition of co-cultures of E. coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. When introducing in each strain different metabolic modules of biosynthetic pathways for isobutyl acetate or naringenin, we found that the productivity of co-cultures increases by adjusting the population ratios with specific light duty cycles. This study shows the feasibility of using optogenetics to control microbial consortia populations and the advantages of using light to control their chemical production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2015-2029
Number of pages15
JournalACS Synthetic Biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 20 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)


  • co-culture fermentations
  • dynamic control
  • metabolic engineering
  • microbial consortia
  • optogenetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Optogenetic Control of Microbial Consortia Populations for Chemical Production'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this