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The lab of Dr. Knut Drescher focuses on understanding collective bacterial behaviors, using biofilm formation as a model system. Bacterial biofilms are surface-associated bacterial communities that are held together by an extracellular matrix. Cells within these communities are highly resistant to antibiotics and display strong phenotypic heterogeneity. Using microscopy, molecular biology techniques, and mathematical modeling, we study how bacteria form these complex multicellular biofilm communities, and how biofilms affect bacterial ecology.
Cells are filled with a dazzling diversity of proteins that can seem exquisitely tuned to their functions. How did evolution produce this diversity? Is it the result millions of years of fine-tuning, or does it reflect a more erratic process that tends to produce Rube Goldberg-like machines replete with gratuitous complexity? Our lab tackles these questions using the evolution of protein complexes as our model system. We use ancestral sequence reconstruction to resurrect long extinct protein complexes and characterize their structure and function using a combination of high-resolution biophysical techniques and high-throughput characterization of protein libraries.
RNA`s simple chemical composition - generally built from only four different nucleotides – stands in stark contrast to its highly complex functionality. To date, more than 160 chemical modifications are known that alter the function or stability of RNA molecules. Focusing primarily on the model organism Escherichia coli, the Höfer lab studies the epitranscriptomic mechanisms of gene regulation based on NAD-capped RNAs in bacteria. To identify novel and important connections between redox biology, gene expression and regulation they are combining cell biological, biochemical, structural, chemical and bioinformatic approaches.
The research of the Max Planck Research Group "Prokaryotic Small RNA Biology", led by Dr. Lennart Randau, aims to understand the processing of small RNAs involved in the defense against integrative elements (e.g. viruses) in Bacteria and Archaea. The group uses an interdisciplinary approach combining computational, biochemical and microbiological techniques to investigate (i) the RNAs that play the central role in the prokaryotic CRISPR immune system and (ii) the evolution of diverse disruptive elements within archaeal transfer RNA genes. These systems will be exploited for the modulation of prokaryotic immunity and the creation of gene knock-down technology.