• Our new home

    since summer 2021.

  • Hunting for microbes since 2003

  • We seek to understand

    the role of microorganisms in Earth's nutrient cycles

    and as symbionts of other organisms

  • Cycling of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur

    affect the health of our planet

  • The human microbiome -

    Our own social network of microbial friends

  • Ancient invaders -

    Bacterial symbionts of amoebae

    and the evolution of the intracellular lifestyle

  • Marine symbioses:

    Listening in on conversations

    between animals and the microbes they can't live without

  • Single cell techniques offer new insights

    into the ecology of microbes

  • Doctoral School in Microbiology and Environmental Sciences

  • PhD program in Microbial Symbioses

    A special FWF funded track in our doctoral school

Dome News

Latest publications

Cable bacteria with electric connection to oxygen attract flocks of diverse bacteria

Cable bacteria are centimeter-long filamentous bacteria that conduct electrons via internal wires, thus coupling sulfide oxidation in deeper, anoxic sediment with oxygen reduction in surface sediment. This activity induces geochemical changes in the sediment, and other bacterial groups appear to benefit from the electrical connection to oxygen. Here, we report that diverse bacteria swim in a tight flock around the anoxic part of oxygen-respiring cable bacteria and disperse immediately when the connection to oxygen is disrupted (by cutting the cable bacteria with a laser). Raman microscopy shows that flocking bacteria are more oxidized when closer to the cable bacteria, but physical contact seems to be rare and brief, which suggests potential transfer of electrons via unidentified soluble intermediates. Metagenomic analysis indicates that most of the flocking bacteria appear to be aerobes, including organotrophs, sulfide oxidizers, and possibly iron oxidizers, which might transfer electrons to cable bacteria for respiration. The association and close interaction with such diverse partners might explain how oxygen via cable bacteria can affect microbial communities and processes far into anoxic environments.

Bjerg JJ, Lustermans JJM, Marshal IPGl, Mueller AJM, Brokjær S, Thorup CA, Tataru P, Schmid M, Wagner M, Nielsen LP, Schramm A
2023 - Nat Commun., 14: 1614

Simultaneous sulfate and nitrate reduction in coastal sediments

The oscillating redox conditions that characterize coastal sandy sediments foster microbial communities capable of respiring oxygen and nitrate simultaneously, thereby increasing the potential for organic matter remineralization, nitrogen (N)-loss and emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. It is unknown to what extent these conditions also lead to overlaps between dissimilatory nitrate and sulfate respiration. Here, we show that sulfate and nitrate respiration co-occur in the surface sediments of an intertidal sand flat. Furthermore, we found strong correlations between dissimilatory nitrite reduction to ammonium (DNRA) and sulfate reduction rates. Until now, the nitrogen and sulfur cycles were assumed to be mainly linked in marine sediments by the activity of nitrate-reducing sulfide oxidisers. However, transcriptomic analyses revealed that the functional marker gene for DNRA (nrfA) was more associated with microorganisms known to reduce sulfate rather than oxidise sulfide. Our results suggest that when nitrate is supplied to the sediment community upon tidal inundation, part of the sulfate reducing community may switch respiratory strategy to DNRA. Therefore increases in sulfate reduction rate in-situ may result in enhanced DNRA and reduced denitrification rates. Intriguingly, the shift from denitrification to DNRA did not influence the amount of N2O produced by the denitrifying community. Our results imply that microorganisms classically considered as sulfate reducers control the potential for DNRA within coastal sediments when redox conditions oscillate and therefore retain ammonium that would otherwise be removed by denitrification, exacerbating eutrophication.

Bourceau OM, Ferdelman T, Lavik G, Mussmann M, Kuypers MMM, Marchant HK
2023 - ISME Communications, in press

Neutral and Pectic Heteropolysaccharides Isolated from Mucilage: Composition, Molecular Dimensions and Prebiotic Potential.

is a semi-wild cactus cultivated for its fruit. However, the cladodes are often discarded, wasting the potentially useful mucilage in them. The mucilage is composed primarily of heteropolysaccharides, characterized by their molar mass distribution, monosaccharide composition, structural features (by vibrational spectroscopy, FT IR, and atomic force microscopy, AFM), and fermentability by known saccharolytic commensal members of the gut microbiota. After fractionation with ion exchange chromatography, four polysaccharides were found: one neutral (composed mainly of galactose, arabinose, and xylose) and three acidic, with a galacturonic acid content from 10 to 35%. Their average molar masses ranged from 1.8 × 10 to 2.8 × 10 g·mol. Distinct structural features such as galactan, arabinan, xylan, and galacturonan motifs were present in the FT IR spectra. The intra- and intermolecular interactions of the polysaccharides, and their effect on the aggregation behavior, were shown by AFM. The composition and structural features of these polysaccharides were reflected in their prebiotic potential. and were not able to utilize them, whereas members of showed utilization capacity. The obtained data suggest a high economic potential for this species, with potential uses such as animal feed in arid areas, precise prebiotic, and symbiotic formulations, or as the carbon skeleton source in a green refinery. Our methodology can be used to evaluate the saccharides as the phenotype of interest, helping to guide the breeding strategy.

Cruz-Rubio JM, Riva A, Cybulska J, Zdunek A, Berry D, Loeppert R, Viernstein H, Praznik W, Maghuly F
2023 - Int J Mol Sci, 4: in press

Lecture series

DOME Lecture: "Selection on the accessory genome can predict bacterial evolution"

Bill Hanage, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, USA
Associate Professor,
12:00 h
hybrid, UBB HS 2