Label-Free Proteomics of a Defined, Binary Co-culture Reveals Diversity of Competitive Responses Between Members of a Model Soil Microbial System

J. F. Chignell, S. Park, C. M.R. Lacerda, S. K. De Long, K. F. Reardon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Interactions among members of microbial consortia drive the complex dynamics in soil, gut, and biotechnology microbiomes. Proteomic analysis of defined co-cultures of well-characterized species provides valuable information about microbial interactions. We used a label-free approach to quantify the responses to co-culture of two model bacterial species relevant to soil and rhizosphere ecology, Bacillus atrophaeus and Pseudomonas putida. Experiments determined the ratio of species in co-culture that would result in the greatest number of high-confidence protein identifications for both species. The 281 and 256 proteins with significant shifts in abundance for B. atrophaeus and P. putida, respectively, indicated responses to co-culture in overall metabolism, cell motility, and response to antagonistic compounds. Proteins associated with a virulent phenotype during surface-associated growth were significantly more abundant for P. putida in co-culture. Co-culture on agar plates triggered a filamentous phenotype in P. putida and avoidance of P. putida by B. atrophaeus colonies, corroborating antagonistic interactions between these species. Additional experiments showing increased relative abundance of P. putida under conditions of iron or zinc limitation and increased relative abundance of B. atrophaeus under magnesium limitation were consistent with patterns of changes in abundance of metal-binding proteins during co-culture. These results provide details on the nature of interactions between two species with antagonistic capabilities. Significant challenges remaining for the development of proteomics as a tool in microbial ecology include accurate quantification of low-abundance peptides, especially from rare species present at low relative abundance in a consortium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-719
Number of pages19
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • Bacillus atrophaeus
  • Co-culture
  • Microbial antagonism
  • Proteomics
  • Pseudomonas putida


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