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The Bischofs lab studies complex adaptive traits (CATs) of stressed bacteria. Our goals are to understand, to control and to engineer such traits. Using tools from molecular biology, microscopy and mathematical modelling we investigate how signaling networks regulate CATs. We seek to reveal fundamental organizing principles that relate the molecular network design to population-level behavior and vice versa. This should facilitate rational manipulations of bacterial populations and the implementation of novel functionalities into “smart” communities in the future.
Termite guts are tiny bioreactors converting lignocellulose to microbial fermentation products that fuel the metabolism of the host. My research group studies the role of the termite gut microbiota in the symbiotic digestion of wood, focusing on the biology of the prokaryotic and eukaryotic symbionts and their interactions, the structure and functions of the intestinal ecosystem, and the evolution of its microbiota. Other aspects are the microbial processes in the guts of humivorous soil macrofauna, such as soil-feeding termites and scarab beetle larvae.
The main theme of our research is microbial ecology. The projects cover topics at the molecular, genomic, cellular, and community levels. The current research is focused on (i) the molecular biology and ecophysiology of Methylocystis sp. strain SC2, (ii) soil metatranscriptomics, and (iii) microbial communities in Sphagnum-dominated peatlands. The main findings are described in Recent Research (Liesack 2012-2014).
This group is presently working on three projects: (i)analysis of the structure and the catalytic mechanism of [Fe]-hydrogenase (Hmd), (ii) crystal structure analysis of tetrahydromethanopterin (H4MPT)- and F420-dependent enzymes, and (iii) characterization of enzymes involved in anaerobic oxidation of methane.
We characterize and engineer metalloenzymes to elucidate the underlaying principals and mechanisms of metalloenzyme catalysis. The group focuses on the activation of nitrogen (N2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) by the enzyme nitrogenase. Harnessing theses insights, we engineer metalloenzymes to develop improved catalysts for the production of bulk chemicals, including fertilizer (NH3), hydrocarbons (C2H4, C3H8, C4H10) and hydrogen (H2). The long-term goal is to develop novel metabolic pathways using these unique reactivities.