We at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology (MPIterMic) aim to understand how microorganisms function at the molecular and cellular level as well as in ecosystems. How do microorganisms react to environmental changes and how do they themselves change the environment? How do they move and search for food? How do they convert chemical compounds into others? To this end, we study the genetic, molecular and metabolic programs of microbial cells.
Microorganisms are essential for human health - for example, our microbiome in the intestine provides us with important nutrients. Microorganisms can also cause diseases in humans, animals and plants. For this, they use molecular weapons, such as injection needles or effector molecules, which we study in function and structure. We also investigate how these single-cellular organisms gather together to form biofilms. Here they are difficult for antibiotics to reach and altogether can cause damage.
Some microorganisms have invented the probably most important chemical cycle on earth, the photosynthesis. Others produce hydrogen and methane. Understanding and adapting their biology and chemistry may enable us in the future to find sustainable ways of producing energy or fixating too much carbon dioxide or methane.
To answer these questions, our research groups at the MPIterMic explore a wide range of microbiological topics: protein structure determination, physiology, metabolism, molecular and cellular microbiology, host-microbe interactions, and microbial communities. We work with state-of-the-art technologies in combination with computer modeling and analysis as well as synthetic biology approaches.