Recent advances in microbial consortia present a valuable approach for expanding the scope of metabolic engineering. Systems biology enable thorough understanding of diverse physiological processes of cells and their interactions, which in turn offers insights into the optimal design of synthetic microbial consortia. Yet, the study of synthetic microbial consortia is still in early infancy, facing many unknowns and challenges in intercellular communication and construction of stable and controllable microbial consortia systems. In this review, we comprehensively discussed the recent application of defined microbial consortia in the fields of human health monitoring and medicine exploitation, valuable compounds synthesis, consolidated bioprocessing of lignocellulosic materials and environmental bioremediation. Moreover, the outstanding challenges and future directions to advance the development of high-efficient, stable and controllable synthetic microbial consortia were highlighted.