Department of Ecophysiology

Bacterial cells are true survival artists; they can live practically everywhere. The reason for this is their particular ability to perceive changes in their environment and quickly adapt to them, for example through metabolic changes, cell differentiation, growth or movement. With our research, we want to understand how the multitude of information in the bacterial cell is processed and how reactions are triggered. Secondly, we investigate the structure and regulation of the molecular machineries underlying motility, cell division and cell secretion. 

Information processing in bacteria mainly takes place in a complex network of signal molecules. Understanding how the bacterial signaling chains are organized in terms of time and space is one of the greatest challenges in microbiology.

We are probing the signal transduction pathways and networks governing development, motility, cell polarity, and the cell cycle in Myxococcus xanthus. Since under starvation conditions, the unicellular organism forms fruiting bodies in a concerted action, Myxococcus is considered a particularly "social bacterium". However, its intra- and intercellular communication applies to many bacteria, including pathogens in humans. We are particularly interested in the question of how the type III secretion system works on the molecular level. How is it activated and regulated during the infection process? How can we control its function and thus prevent an infection? 

To this end, we work on an interdisciplinary basis using a variety of microscopic and analytical techniques including

  • Molecular Genetics
  • In vitro characterization of purified proteins
  • Fluorescence microscopy and live-cell imaging
  • Proteomics
  • Transcriptomics
  • Functional genomics
  • Whole genome sequencing and comparative genomics
  • Theoretical modeling

As with all departments of the institute, our team is international and generally English-speaking. In our weekly seminars, the doctoral students and post-docs review their progress and current questions.

The Department is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for microscopy incl. live cell imaging as well as for the analysis of molecular interactions

Research in the Department is presently organized in three research groups:

Bacterial adaption and differentiation [more]
Intracellular organization and differentiation of bacteria [more]

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