Metabolic model predictions enable targeted microbiome manipulation through precision prebiotics.


Georgios Marinos, Inga K Hamerich, Reena Debray, Nancy Obeng, Carola Petersen, Jan Taubenheim, Johannes Zimmermann, Dana Blackburn, Buck S Samuel, Katja Dierking, Andre Franke, Matthias Laudes, Silvio Waschina, Hinrich Schulenburg, Christoph Kaleta

Year of publication



Microbiol Spectr







Impact factor



While numerous health-beneficial interactions between host and microbiota have been identified, there is still a lack of targeted approaches for modulating these interactions. Thus, we here identify precision prebiotics that specifically modulate the abundance of a microbiome member species of interest. In the first step, we show that defining precision prebiotics by compounds that are only taken up by the target species but no other species in a community is usually not possible due to overlapping metabolic niches. Subsequently, we use metabolic modeling to identify precision prebiotics for a two-member Caenorhabditis elegans microbiome community comprising the immune-protective target species Pseudomonas lurida MYb11 and the persistent colonizer Ochrobactrum vermis MYb71. We experimentally confirm four of the predicted precision prebiotics, L-serine, L-threonine, D-mannitol, and γ-aminobutyric acid, to specifically increase the abundance of MYb11. L-serine was further assessed in vivo, leading to an increase in MYb11 abundance also in the worm host. Overall, our findings demonstrate that metabolic modeling is an effective tool for the design of precision prebiotics as an important cornerstone for future microbiome-targeted therapies.IMPORTANCEWhile various mechanisms through which the microbiome influences disease processes in the host have been identified, there are still only few approaches that allow for targeted manipulation of microbiome composition as a first step toward microbiome-based therapies. Here, we propose the concept of precision prebiotics that allow to boost the abundance of already resident health-beneficial microbial species in a microbiome. We present a constraint-based modeling pipeline to predict precision prebiotics for a minimal microbial community in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans comprising the host-beneficial Pseudomonas lurida MYb11 and the persistent colonizer Ochrobactrum vermis MYb71 with the aim to boost the growth of MYb11. Experimentally testing four of the predicted precision prebiotics, we confirm that they are specifically able to increase the abundance of MYb11 in vitro and in vivo. These results demonstrate that constraint-based modeling could be an important tool for the development of targeted microbiome-based therapies against human diseases.