Microbes are the hidden powers on planet earth. They are by far the most abundant life form, drive biogeochemical cycles and are essential partners in biological interactions with other organisms. Yet our knowledge of microbial diversity and function is only limited.
The divisionís research spans from ecophysiology, genomics, and evolution of key microorganisms in selected ecosystems to interactions of microbes among each other and with eukaryotes. This is achieved by cultivation-independent state-of-the-art molecular tools including for example microarray technology and environmental genomics.
We seek to analyze the biodiversity, to reveal the evolutionary history, and to understand the ecological function of microbes catalyzing the global sulfur- and nitrogen cycles. These organisms are not only indispensable in nature, they are also of great importance for biotechnological applications.
We study the evolution of intracellular symbiotic associations and their mechanisms of interaction by focussing on amoebae and their bacterial endosymbionts. As model system we investigate the chlamydiae, which are among the most successful bacterial pathogens of humans and thrive as symbionts in diverse hosts such as protozoa, insects, and crustaceans.
The Department of Microbial Ecology coordinates the
research focus "Symbiosis" of the Faculty of Life Sciences.
Specific research topics are listed below.
|Methods for the analysis of in situ activity and ecophysiology of bacteria within complex ecosystems|
The large majority of prokaryotes can not be obtained and studied in pure culture in the laboratory. Thus methods are urgently required that allow analysis of microorganisms directly in their natural environment.
Raman microspectroscopy lab
|Oligonucleotide microarrays for the analysis of complex microbial communities|
We are developing highly parallel diagnostic tools for the detection, identification, and functional characterization of selected microbial groups such as sulfate-reducing prokaryotes or nitrifying bacteria. more ...
|Biodiversity and ecophysiology of nitrifying bacterial communities|
We are studying diversity, distribution and function of bacterial keyplayers in the nitrogen cycle. more ...
|Environmental genomics of anaerobic ammonium oxidizing bacteria and Nitrospira-like bacteria|
Genomic analysis of uncultured microorganisms from complex microbial communities. more ...
|Phylogeny, diversity, and function of microorganisms involved in sulfur cycling|
Sulfur-oxidizing and sulfate-/sulfite-reducing prokaryotes are key players in the global sulfur cycle. We are investigating the evolutionary history, distribution, and ecophysiology of these microbial guilds. more ...
|Ecology and genetics of the intestinal microbiota in health and disease (InflammoBiota)|
We are studying community dynamics and function of the gut microbiota and its role in the development of inflammatory bowel diseases in animal models and humans. more ...
Chlamydiae are perhaps the most successful obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens. The recent discovery of chlamydiae as symbionts of amoebae, insects, and crustaceans radically changed our perception of chlamydial diversity and their distribution in nature. more ...
|Environmental chlamydia genomics and post-genomics|
Comparative genome sequence, transcriptome, and proteome analysis of chlamydia-related symbionts of free-living amoebae.
|Nucleotide transport proteins in environmental chlamydiae|
Chlamydiae lack biosynthetic pathways for essential building blocks such as nucleotides and NAD+. Specialized nucleotide transport proteins compensate for this deficiency and thus mediate a metabolic key interaction between chlamydiae and their host cells.
|Genomic analysis of 'Candidatus Amoebophilus asiaticus'|
Comparative genome sequence analysis of the amoeba symbiont 'Candidatus Amoebophilus asiaticus' strain 5a2 belonging to the phylum Bacteroidetes. more ...
|Bacterial endosymbionts of free-living amoebae|
About 25% of ubiquitous Acanthamoeba sp. contain obligate intracellular bacterial symbionts. We are investigating the diversity and distribution of these elusive microorganisms. more ...
|The ecology of marine sponge-associated microorganisms|
Many marine sponges contain dense, highly diverse microbial communities. Collectively, these organisms exhibit an enormous diversity of metabolic traits of potential use to the host, including nitrification, photosynthesis, anaerobic metabolism and secondary metabolite production.
|Confocal laser scanning microscopy and digital image analysis|
2D and 3D image analysis and visualization techniques for the analysis of complex microbial communities by CLSM and fluorescence in situ hybridization. more ...