Comput Struct Biotechnol J 18 (-) 3987-4001 [2020-12-02; online 2020-12-02]
Natural microbial communities are complex ecosystems with myriads of interactions. To deal with this complexity, we can apply lessons learned from the study of model organisms and try to find simpler systems that can shed light on the same questions. Here, microbial model communities are essential, as they can allow us to learn about the metabolic interactions, genetic mechanisms and ecological principles governing and structuring communities. A variety of microbial model communities of varying complexity have already been developed, representing different purposes, environments and phenomena. However, choosing a suitable model community for one's research question is no easy task. This review aims to be a guide in the selection process, which can help the researcher to select a sufficiently well-studied model community that also fulfills other relevant criteria. For example, a good model community should consist of species that are easy to grow, have been evaluated for community behaviors, provide simple readouts and - in some cases - be of relevance for natural ecosystems. Finally, there is a need to standardize growth conditions for microbial model communities and agree on definitions of community-specific phenomena and frameworks for community interactions. Such developments would be the key to harnessing the power of simplicity to start disentangling complex community interactions.