Richness and density jointly determine context dependence in bacterial interactions

Keven D. Dooley, Joy Bergelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pairwise interactions are often used to predict features of complex microbial communities due to the challenge of measuring multi-species interactions in high dimensional contexts. This assumes that interactions are unaffected by community context. Here, we used synthetic bacterial communities to investigate that assumption by observing how interactions varied across contexts. Interactions were most often weakly negative and showed a phylogenetic signal among genera. Community richness and total density emerged as strong predictors of interaction strength and contributed to an attenuation of interactions as richness increased. Population level and per-capita measures of interactions both displayed such attenuation, suggesting factors beyond systematic changes in population size were involved; namely, changes to the interactions themselves. Nevertheless, pairwise interactions retained some explanatory power across contexts, provided those contexts were not substantially divergent in richness. These results suggest that understanding the emergent properties of microbial interactions can improve our ability to predict the features of microbial communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108654
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 19 2024


  • Bacteriology
  • Microbiology
  • Synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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