Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Buckel
Wolfgang Buckel (born 22.11.1940)
Diplom (Chemistry), Universität München, 1965
Dr. rer. nat. (Biochemistry), Universität München, 1968
Akademischer Rat/Direktor, Universität Regensburg, 1969-1987
Postdoc (Microbiology), University of California, Berkeley, 1970-1971
Habilitation (Biochemistry), Universität Regensburg, 1975
Professor of Microbiology at the Philipps-Universität, 1987-2008
Max Planck Fellow of the MPI for Terrestrial Microbiology, since 2008
Dean of the Fachbereich Biologie, Philipps-Universität, Marburg, 1994-1995
Speaker of the DFG-Schwerpunktprogramm "Radicals in Enzymatic Catalysis" 1998-2006
Speaker of the Graduiertenkolleg "Proteinfunction at the Atomic Level" since 1999-2006
Editor of "Archives of Microbiology" and "FEMS Microbiology Letters"
Research area: Mechanism of Enzymes from Anaerobic Bacteria
In microbiology bacteria are classified by the kind of their nutrition. A heterotrophic organism thrives from organic compounds like humans, whereas an autotroph obtains the whole energy and cellular material from CO2 and inorganic reductants. Currently a heterotrophic theory competes with an autotrophic theory to explain the origin of life. The idea of a heterotrophic origin of life dates back to Charles Darwin who supposed that the first organisms emerged from a “warm little pond”. Alexander I. Oparin and John B. S. Haldane formed this idea into a scientific theory that apparently was supported by the famous experiment of Stanley L. Miller and Harold C. Urey in 1953. In this experiment, lightening in an assumed reducing atmosphere generated mainly tar and hundreds of different compounds, of which only a few occur in extant life. There was no idea how the produced amino acids and other compounds assembled into a living cell. However, life is an exergonic process that continuously requires energy. Günter Wächtershäuser was the first to postulate a driving force for the abiotic synthesis of cellular material, the exergonic conversion of iron sulfide and hydrogen sulfide to pyrite and hydrogen “in statu nascendi” that – as he proposed – reduces CO2 to organic compounds via the reverse Krebs cycle. Recent geochemical research revealed that the early atmosphere contained only nitrogen and CO2. Alkaline hydrothermal vents like Lost City produce hydrogen by reduction of water with iron(II) minerals, a process called serpentinisation. Hydrogen and CO2 are the substrates of modern acetogenic bacteria and methanogenic archaea. Most importantly, both types of autotrophic organisms do not only synthesize their cell material from hydrogen and CO2 but also obtain the energy for life from this process.