Department of Biochemistry and Synthetic Metabolism
Finding new (metabolic) pathways
We focus on the discovery, understanding and engineering of novel enzymes and pathways, especially those that capture and convert the carbon dioxide. In a so-called retrosynthetic approach, we are looking for synthetic alternatives that work more efficiently than naturally evolved ones - for example, a synthetic photosynthesis that binds CO2more efficiently and thus could reduce the excess of the greenhouse gas.
To this end, we are conducting research at the interface between microbial physiology, biochemistry and synthetic biology. Our biologic-synthetic approach enable us to understand the basic principles of the construction of metabolic networks. In the future, this will allow us to realize new biological structures and processes, for example artificial photosynthesis, or synthetic organelles and cells.
We are currently working on the following questions:
- Which metabolic pathways in the global carbon cycle are currently still undiscovered, and what functions do they have?
- How are essential biochemical reactions such as the conversion of CO2 catalyzed by enzymes, and what drives their development?
- How can we trigger new catalytic properties by modifying or rebuilding enzymes?
- How can we form new metabolic pathways from individual enzymes? For example a pathway that fixates CO2 more efficiently?
- How do we implement these new metabolic pathways in natural and synthetic cells?
We use a variety of methods from protein biochemistry, molecular and structural biology, metabolic and genetic engineering, experimental evolution, NMR and UV/Vis spectroscopy, metabolomics, transcriptomics and proteomics, synthetic biology and fluorescence microscopy. Embedded in a network of collaborations, we work closely with researchers from other institutions, for example in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Israel, Chile and the USA.