New study reveals mechanisms of microbial community assembly

The research team of Professor Ding Tao of Sun Yat-sen School of Medicine of Sun Yat-sen University revealed the longitudinal temporal quorum sensing network in the process of human oral biofilm (OBM) microbiota, and verified the effectiveness of the bacterial quorum sensing network in predicting and manipulating the microbiota assembly process through experiments. Recently, the results were published online in Microbiome.
Previously, Ding Tao’s team comprehensively reviewed the role and role of bacterial quorum sensing mechanism in the pathogenic bacteria-driven gastrointestinal infection, and listed the bacterial quorum sensing signals found in the gastrointestinal microbiota and their participation in the regulation of physiological and metabolic functions of the microbiota. Related article was published in Gut Microbiome.

Self-built observation model of in vitro microbiota assembly. Photo courtesy of Ding Tao’s team

Ding Tao, the corresponding author of the paper, said that the human microbiota is closely related to a variety of diseases, and the precise regulation of microbiota has become a hot scientific issue in microbiome. However, due to the high diversity of human microbiota, the heterogeneity of the population, and the complex dynamics of composition and function, it is a great challenge to achieve precise regulation of the microbiota. In addition, it is unclear how bacterial quorum sensing regulates the assembly process of the human microbial community.

In this study, an optimized OBM assembly platform built in vitro was used to simulate and track the whole assembly process of OBM microbiota. At the same time, it was found that the core bacteria in the dominant position in the assembly process of OBM included Streptococcus, Veloncoccus-Macrococcus, and Prevobacterium-Fusobacterium, and the information exchange was carried out through the sequential bacterial quorum sensing network to realize the interaction between bacteria and promote the sequential succession of microbial structure.
In this study, a reference library of signal synthesis and signal-sensing protein sequences in the bacterial quorum sensing pathway was constructed, and the homology was aligned with the time-series OBM metagenome, from which 2291 bacterial quorum sensing homologous proteins involving 21 bacterial quorum sensing pathways were found. Most of these bacterial quorum sensing pathways were discovered for the first time in OBM, and they showed temporal enrichment during OBM assembly.

Core bacterial signaling regulation network during oral microbiota assembly. Photo courtesy of Ding Tao’s team

After species classification analysis of the obtained bacterial quorum sensing homologous proteins, the researchers found that the bacterial quorum sensing pathway in OBM was mainly derived from the dominant species that were enriched in time sequence during the assembly of the microbiota. At the same time, it was found that the bacterial quorum sensing signal was transmitted in both directions in the microbiota communication network, and played a key role in the directional transformation of community structure in the process of microbial community assembly.
Ding Tao said that this research work provides a new perspective for revealing the underlying mechanism of natural complex microbial community aggregation, and provides an important theoretical basis for the final precise manipulation of human microbiota by intervening in bacterial quorum sensing networks.
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