• 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

Microclimate shapes the phylosymbiosis of rodent gut microbiota in Jordan's Great Rift Valley.

Host phylogeny and the environment play vital roles in shaping animal microbiomes. However, the effects of these variables on the diversity and richness of the gut microbiome in different bioclimatic zones remain underexplored. In this study, we investigated the effects of host phylogeny and bioclimatic zone on the diversity and composition of the gut microbiota of two heterospecific rodent species, the spiny mouse and the house mouse , in three bioclimatic zones of the African Great Rift Valley (GRV). We confirmed host phylogeny using the sequencing method and analyzed the influence of host phylogeny and bioclimatic zone parameters on the rodent gut microbiome using high-throughput amplicon sequencing of 16S rRNA gene fragments. Phylogenetic analysis supported the morphological identification of the rodents and revealed a marked genetic difference between the two heterospecific species. We found that bioclimatic zone had a significant effect on the gut microbiota composition while host phylogeny did not. Microbial alpha diversity of heterospecific hosts was highest in the Mediterranean forest bioclimatic zone, followed by the Irano-Turanian shrubland, and was lowest in the Sudanian savanna tropical zone. The beta diversity of the two rodent species showed significant differences across the Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, and Sudanian regions. The phyla and were highly abundant, and and were also prominent. Amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) were identified that were unique to the Sudanian bioclimatic zone. The core microbiota families recovered in this study were consistent among heterospecific hosts. However, diversity decreased in conspecific host populations found at lower altitudes in Sudanian bioclimatic zone. The composition of the gut microbiota is linked to the adaptation of the host to its environment, and this study underscores the importance of incorporating climatic factors such as elevation and ambient temperature, in empirical microbiome research and is the first to describe the rodent gut microbiome from the GRV.

Al-Khlifeh E, Khadem S, Hausmann B, Berry D
2023 - Front Microbiol, 1258775

The phageome in normal and inflamed human skin

Dysbiosis of skin microbiota drives the progression of atopic dermatitis (AD). The contribution of bacteriophages to bacterial community compositions in normal and inflamed skin is unknown. Using shotgun metagenomics from skin swabs of healthy individuals and patients with AD, we found 13,586 potential viral contiguous DNA sequences, which could be combined into 164 putative viral genomes including 133 putative phages. The Shannon diversity index for the viral metagenome-assembled genomes (vMAGs) did not correlate with AD. In total, we identified 28 vMAGs that differed significantly between normal and AD skin. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction validation of three complete vMAGs revealed their independence from host bacterium abundance. Our data indicate that normal and inflamed skin harbor distinct phageomes and suggest a causative relationship between changing viral and bacterial communities as a driver of skin pathology.

Wielscher M, Pfisterer K, Samardzic D, Balsini P, Bangert C, Jäger K, Buchberger M, Selitsch B, Pjevac P, Willinger B, Weninger W
2023 - Science Advances, in press

Single-cell mass distributions reveal simple rules for achieving steady-state growth

ABSTRACT Optical density is a proxy of total biomass concentration and is commonly used for measuring the growth of bacterial cultures. However, there is a misconception that exponential optical density growth is equivalent to steady-state population growth. Many cells comprise a culture and individuals can differ from one another. Hallmarks of steady-state population growth are stable frequency distributions of cellular properties over time, something total biomass growth alone cannot quantify. Using single-cell mass sensors paired with optical density measurements, we explore when steady-state population growth prevails in typical batch cultures. We find the average cell mass of Escherichia coli and Vibrio cyclitrophicus growing in several media increases by 0.5–1 orders of magnitude within a few hours of inoculation, and that time-invariant mass distributions are only achieved for short periods when cultures are inoculated with low initial biomass concentrations from overnight cultures. These species achieve an effective steady-state after approximately 2.5–4 total biomass doublings in rich media, which can be decomposed to 1 doubling of cell number and 1.5–3 doublings of average cell mass. We also show that typical batch cultures in rich media depart steady-state early in their growth curves at low cell and biomass concentrations. Achieving steady-state population growth in batch culture is a delicate balancing act, so we provide general guidance for commonly used rich media. Quantifying single-cell mass outside of steady-state population growth is an important first step toward understanding how microbes grow in their natural context, where fluctuations pervade at the scale of individuals.

Roller BRK, Hellerschmied C, Wu Y, Miettinen TP, Gomez AL, Manalis SR, Polz MF
2023 - mBio, in press

Lecture series

CANCELLED!! DOME Lecture: "Phage communication: from mechanisms to ecology and evolution"

Avigdor Eldar
Associate Professor, Tel-Aviv University, Israel
12:00 h