Molecular Microbiology and Bioenergetics
Microbes are truly fascinating! They have developed from the first life forms on earth to specialized organisms inhabiting nearly every ecosystem on todays earth. This requires elaborate adaptation mechanisms to survive and thrive in these ecosystems. Our group focusses on the adaptation of pathogenic bacteria such as Acinetobacter baumannii to their eukaryotic host and to the clinical environment, on anaerobic bacteria and archaea to low energy environments, on the biochemistry and bioenergetics of the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway for autotrophic CO2 fixation, on the adaptation of halophilic bacteria and archaea to their salty environment as well as on the mechanisms of DNA exchange between microbes inhabiting extreme environments.
The microbes under study have a fascinating repertoire of genetic and biochemical mechanisms that allow them to adapt to their environments. How they cope with these stresses, often multiple stresses, how they sense their environment, how their genomes have evolved, how their enzymes function under these harsh conditions, how they regulate their gene expression is in the focus of the research interest of the Department of Molecular Microbiology & Bioenergetics at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main.
Microbiology has always been an applied science and it is of equal importance for us to use microbes in biotechnological and industrial processes. In particular, we search and provide enzymes for industrial applications such as in electrobiotechnology or electrosynthesis, hydrogen storage or formate production, we try to improve the effciency of biogas plants, we use acetogenic bacteria as production plattform for the synthesis of biofuels and bioplastics from carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide, and use synthetic biology and metabolic engineering to implement novel metabolic routes in microbes. Another applied aspect of significant impact will arise from the elucidation of the fascinating multifactoral adaptive responses of the pathogen A. baumannii to the host cells and its clinical environment. This is of particular interest in terms of development of novel treatment strategies of hospital acquired A. baumannii infections.
We use genetic and molecular tools to analyze genome function, study gene expression and its regulation and construct mutants to decipher their phenotypes. Bioinformatic analyses paired with molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics gives us an insight into the adaptation of these microbes (bacteria and archaea) at the whole-cell level. Proteins are purified as genetically engineered fusion proteins or using classical chromatography from cell fractions of these creatures. Protein complexes are purified from the membranes and for oxygen-sensitive proteins, this can be done in anaerobic chambers in the absence of oxygen. Proteins and protein complexes are analyzed by biochemical and biophysical methods and structures are determined by electron microscopy and x-ray analyses. Genetic engineering is employed to construct strains that produce industrially relevant biocommodities and biofuels.
Our studies have culminated in the description of novel genetic mechanisms, enzymes with novel mechanisms, new metabolic pathways and procedures to use them for biotechnological applications. These are described on the individual research pages.