Towards elucidation of microbial community metabolic pathways: unravelling the network of carbon sharing in a pollutant-degrading bacterial consortium by immunocapture and isotopic ratio mass spectrometry



Although much information on metabolic pathways within individual organisms is available, little is known about the pathways operating in natural communities in which extensive sharing of nutritional resources is the rule. In order to analyse such a consortium pathway, we have investigated the flow of 4-chlorosalicylate as carbon substrate within a simple chemostat microbial community using 13C-labelled metabolites and isotopic ratio mass spectrometric analysis of label enrichment in immunocaptured member populations of the community. A complex pathway network of carbon sharing was thereby revealed, involving two different metabolic routes, one of which is completely novel and involves the toxic metabolite protoanemonin. The high stability of the community results, at least in part, from interdependencies based on carbon sharing and the rapid removal of toxic metabolites.