Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Front. Microbiol. 10:1264.


Copyright © 2019 Song, Lee, Haruta, Nelson, Lee, Lindemann, Fredrickson and Bernstein.

Open access

doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.01264


An intriguing aspect in microbial communities is that pairwise interactions can be influenced by neighboring species. This creates context dependencies for microbial interactions that are based on the functional composition of the community. Context dependent interactions are ecologically important and clearly present in nature, yet firmly established theoretical methods are lacking from many modern computational investigations. Here, we propose a novel network inference method that enables predictions for interspecies interactions affected by shifts in community composition and species populations. Our approach first identifies interspecies interactions in binary communities, which is subsequently used as a basis to infer modulation in more complex multi-species communities based on the assumption that microbes minimize adjustments of pairwise interactions in response to neighbor species. We termed this rule-based inference minimal interspecies interaction adjustment (MIIA). Our critical assessment of MIIA has produced reliable predictions of shifting interspecies interactions that are dependent on the functional role of neighbor organisms. We also show how MIIA has been applied to a microbial community composed of competing soil bacteria to elucidate a new finding that – in many cases – adding fewer competitors could impose more significant impact on binary interactions. The ability to predict membership-dependent community behavior is expected to help deepen our understanding of how microbiomes are organized in nature and how they may be designed and/or controlled in the future.