Sugarcane ethanol fermentation represents a simple microbial community dominated by S. cerevisiae and co-occurring bacteria with a clearly defined functionality. In this study, we dissect the microbial interactions in sugarcane ethanol fermentation by combinatorically reconstituting every possible combination of species, comprising approximately 80% of the biodiversity in terms of relative abundance. Functional landscape analysis shows that higher-order interactions counterbalance the negative effect of pairwise interactions on ethanol yield. In addition, we find that Lactobacillus amylovorus improves the yeast growth rate and ethanol yield by cross-feeding acetaldehyde, as shown by flux balance analysis and laboratory experiments. Our results suggest that Lactobacillus amylovorus could be considered a beneficial bacterium with the potential to improve sugarcane ethanol fermentation yields by almost 3%. These data highlight the biotechnological importance of comprehensively studying microbial communities and could be extended to other microbial systems with relevance to human health and the environment.
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