Molecular mechanisms of marine polysaccharide degradation
Algae blooms, i.e., massive proliferation of algae in marine ecosystems, are caused by seasonal changes in environmental conditions and nutrient contaminations, such as agricultural runoffs. These large quantities of algal biomass have detrimental impact on coastal ecosystems, tourism, and aquaculture. At the same time, they present a hitherto unrecognized sustainable resource of rare marine sugars. A complex range of nutrients released upon algae death presents fertile ground for bacteria. These nutrients include structurally versatile algal polysaccharides. To tap this partially recalcitrant food source, bacterial communities possess a diverse repertoire of highly specialized enzymes, substrate-binding proteins and transporters. Interestingly, individual bacteria pursue quite distinct strategies to prevail against nutritional competitors or to profit from each other. These foci are central to our DFG research unit POMPU (FOR 2406; www.pompu-project.de).
Molecular mechanisms of marine symbioses
All higher organisms are associated with microorganisms. The coexistence of these dissimilar partners and their host-microbe interactions are crucial for life on earth. Detailed knowledge of microbial physiology and molecular interaction mechanisms is therefore pivotal for understanding biological processes. Bacterial symbionts perform many functions: they supply their hosts with nutrients, provide access to inhospitable habitats or enable their hosts to produce antimicrobial or bioactive substances. However, many of these processes are poorly understood. To elucidate molecular mechanisms behind symbiotic associations, we therefore examine marine invertebrates – tube worms and bivalves – and their bacterial symbionts with (meta)proteomic methods.
Functional genomics and strain optimization of Bacilli
Our group has profound experience in functional genome analysis of Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis and other industrially relevant Bacilli. Bacilli are able to produce enzymes and secrete them in large amounts. The bacteria are therefore of great interest to industrial biotechnology. In addition, B. subtilis serves as a model organism for Gram-positive bacteria and cellular differentiation processes. By combining basic and applied research we are constantly expanding our global view on Bacillus.