Optogenetic spatial patterning of cooperation in yeast populations.
Abstract: Microbial communities are a siege of complex metabolic interactions such as cooperation and competition for resources. Methods to control such interactions could lead to major advances in our ability to engineer microbial consortia for bioproduction and synthetic biology applications. Here, we used optogenetics to control invertase production in yeast, thereby creating landscapes of cooperator and cheater cells. Yeast cells behave as cooperators (i.e., transform sucrose into glucose, a public “good”) upon blue light illumination or cheaters (i.e., consume glucose produced by cooperators to grow) in the dark. We show that cooperators benefit best from the hexoses they produce when their domain size is constrained between two cut-off length-scales. From an engineering point of view, the system behaves as a band pass filter. The lower limit is the trace of cheaters’ competition for hexoses, while the upper limit is defined by cooperators’ competition for sucrose. Hence, cooperation mostly occurs at the frontiers with cheater cells, which not only compete for hexoses but also cooperate passively by letting sucrose reach cooperators. We anticipate that this optogenetic method could be applied to shape metabolic interactions in a variety of microbial ecosystems.