Biological Systems Engineering, Department of


Document Type



Poonam Phalak et al. / IFAC PapersOnLine 55-7 (2022) 112–118. 10.1016/j.ifacol.2022.07.430


Open access.


Autotroph-heterotroph interactions are ubiquitous in natural environment and play a key role in controlling various essential ecosystem functions, such as production and utilization of organic matter, cycling of nitrogen, sulfur, and other chemical elements. Understanding how these biofilm metabolic interactions are constrained in space and time remains challenging because fully predictive models designed for this purpose are currently limited. Toward filling this gap, here we developed community metabolic network models for two autotroph-heterotroph biofilm consortia (termed UCC-A and UCC-O), which share a suite of common heterotrophic members but have a single distinct photoautotrophic cyanobacterium (Phormidesmis priestleyi str. ANA and Phormidium sp. OSCR) that provides organic carbon and nitrogen sources to support the growth of heterotrophic partners. After determining model parameters by data fitting using the spatiotemporal distributions of microbial abundances, we comparatively analyzed the resulting biofilm models to examine any fundamental differences in microbial interactions between the two consortia under the variation of key environmental variables: CO2 and photon levels. The UCC-A model predicted generally expected responses, i.e., the autotroph population increased in response to elevated levels of CO2 and photon, followed by increase in the heterotroph population. In contrast, the UCC-O model showed somewhat complicated dynamics, e.g., higher photon incidence rates resulted in the increase in autotroph population but decrease in heterotroph population due to the lowered provision of glucose from the autotroph. A further analysis showed that species coexistence was governed by the photon incidences rather than the carbon availability for UCC-O, which was the opposite for UCC-A.