Self-establishing communities enable cooperative metabolite exchange in a eukaryote

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Metabolite exchange among co-growing cells is frequent by nature, however, is not necessarily occurring at growth-relevant quantities indicative of non-cell-autonomous metabolic function. Complementary auxotrophs of Saccharomyces cerevisiae amino acid and nucleotide metabolism regularly fail to compensate for each other’s deficiencies upon co-culturing, a situation which implied the absence of growth-relevant metabolite exchange interactions. Contrastingly, we find that yeast colonies maintain a rich exometabolome and that cells prefer the uptake of extracellular metabolites over self-synthesis, indicators of ongoing metabolite exchange. We conceived a system that circumvents co-culturing and begins with a self-supporting cell that grows autonomously into a heterogeneous community, only able to survive by exchanging histidine, leucine, uracil, and methionine. Compensating for the progressive loss of prototrophy, self-establishing communities successfully obtained an auxotrophic composition in a nutrition-dependent manner, maintaining a wild-type like exometabolome, growth parameters, and cell viability. Yeast, as a eukaryotic model, thus possesses extensive capacity for growth-relevant metabolite exchange and readily cooperates in metabolism within progressively establishing communities.




Campbell, K., Vowinckel, J., Mülleder, M., Malmsheimer, S., Lawrence, N., Calvani, E., … Ralser, M. (2015). Self-establishing communities enable cooperative metabolite exchange in a eukaryote. ELife, 4(OCTOBER2015).

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