Adaptive metabolic strategies in consumer-resource models

Leonardo Pacciani-Mori, Andrea Giometto, Samir Suweis, Amos Maritan

Published in bioRxiv, 2019

Recommended citation: Pacciani-Mori L., Giometto A., Suweis S. and Maritan A. (2019). "Adaptive metabolic strategies in consumer-resource models", bioRxiv. DOI: 10.1101/385724

Preprint website


Bacteria are able to adapt to different environments by changing their “metabolic strategies”, i.e. the ways in which they uptake available resources from the environment. For example, in a celebrated experiment Jacques Monod showed that bacteria cultured in media containing two different sugars consume them sequentially, resulting in bi-phasic growth curves called ‘‘diauxic shifts’’. From the theoretical point of view, microbial communities are commonly described using MacArthur’s consumer-resource model, which describes the population dynamics of species competing for a given set of resources. In this model, however, metabolic strategies are treated as constant parameters. Here, we introduce adaptive metabolic strategies in the framework of consumer-resource models, allowing the strategies to evolve to maximize each species’ relative fitness. By doing so, we are able to describe quantitatively, and without invoking any specific molecular mechanisms for the metabolism of the microbial species, growth curves of the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae measured in a controlled experimental set-up, with galactose as the primary carbon source. We also show that metabolic adaptation enables the community to self-organize, allowing species to coexist even in the presence of few resources, and to respond optimally to a time-dependent environment. A connection between the Competitive Exclusion Principle and the metabolic theory of ecology is also discussed.