Department of Systems and Synthetic Microbiology

Research in the Department of Systems and Synthetic Microbiology deals with a broad range of topics in quantitative microbiology, in a highly interdisciplinary environment that includes biologists, physicists, engineers and chemists. Our main focus is on analysis of the real-time function and spatial organization of cellular networks in microorganisms. To address these questions, we apply a range of fluorescence microscopy techniques, including Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), automated imaging and single-molecule localization microscopy (SMLM), but also transcriptomics, proteomics, biochemistry, and experimental evolution. These experimental techniques are combined with mathematical theory and computer simulations, to provide quantitative insights into the function and evolutionary optimization of cellular networks and to elucidate general network properties. Beyond individual cells, we investigate organization, signal exchange as well as emergence and importance of heterogeneity in multicellular microbial communities. Finally, we use our understanding of bacterial cellular networks to construct novel synthetic systems, from biosensors to the in-vitro reconstitution of essential cellular processes.

 Current research topics within the Department include:

  • Environmental sensing and signal processing by cellular networks in microorganisms
  • Regulation of motile and collective behaviors in bacteria
  • Experimental evolution of bacterial motility
  • Biosensory applications of chemotaxis
  • In-vitro reconstitution of essential cellular processes
  • Self-assembly and self-organization of multi-protein complexes involved in chromosome segregation and motility in bacteria
  • Assembly and dynamics of the endocytic machinery in yeast
  • Super-resolution imaging of cellular protein complexes

Our department has been established as a part of the LOEWE Center for Synthetic Microbiology (SYNMIKRO), a joint initiative of the Philipps-Universität Marburg and the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology.

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