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Biological Sciences

MOSAIC: Metabolic and Spatial Interactions in Communities

Microbial communities within soil are complex, adaptive systems. They have networks of spatially distributed organisms that respond dynamically to changes in environmental conditions and to the abundance or function of other community members.

Journal of Cellular Physiology cover photo

Like most natural ecosystems, soils have high complexity and microbial diversity and the function of the majority of their member genes, proteins, and metabolites is unknown. This means there are many gaps in understanding how these systems exchange energy and drive the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients.

Addressing these knowledge gaps is MOSAIC, a Foundational Scientific Focus Area (FSFA) supported by the Department of Energy's Office of Biological Environmental Research. The goal of its multidisciplinary team at PNNL is a mechanistic and predictive understanding of how microbial metabolic and spatial interactions within soils impact carbon, nitrogen, and energy dynamics to achieve functional stability.

Our first research objectives, aimed at primary knowledge gaps, are to:

  • characterize metabolic interactions among community members, including how these interactions impact the metabolic efficiency and stability of community function
  • understand how microbial community spatial interactions impact metabolic interactions, environmental gradients, and functional stability.

To meet these objectives, MOSAIC employs an iterative research approach that combines experimentation and modeling. We use microbial communities that are highly-curated and laboratory-tractable.

MOSAIC combines the knowledge of microbial community spatial interactions with a genome-informed understanding of microbial community metabolism. From there the MOSAIC team builds models with the aim of accurately predicting community function and the stability of that function under changing conditions.

MOSAIC builds on established PNNL strengths and past FSFA research on metabolic interactions in microbial communities. We retain our long-term focus on elucidating complex microbial community interactions and interdependencies using investigations of model communities coupled with computational representations. Our work places emphasis on Department of Energy-relevant mission areas, including biological control of carbon, nitrogen, and energy fluxes in the environment.


MOSAIC Team Photo

Laboratory Research Manager: Charlette Geffen
Principal Investigators: Lee Ann McCue (PI) and Jim Fredrickson (Co-PI)
Key Staff: Aaron Wright (PM), Christopher Anderton, Vanessa Bailey, Alex Beliaev, Hans Bernstein, Lisa Bramer, Bill Cannon, Mary Lipton, Matt Marshall, Jason McDermott, Tom Metz, James Moran, Bill Nelson, Sam Payne, Ryan Renslow, Hyun-Seob Song, David Stahl (PNNL), Wayne Curtis (Penn State), Steve Lindemann (Purdue), Chris Henry (ANL)

Biological Sciences