Research focus

Life is not aseptic! In their natural environment all microorganisms are part of a complex biological network. Such bacterial interactions range from antagonistic (e.g. pathogenic) to mutualistic interactions all the way to obligate symbioses (both partners depend on each other). In our research group, we focus on the evolution, ecophysiology and molecular basis of bacterial heterologous (i.e. formed by different bacteria) multicellularity using consortia with different degrees of inter-dependency as model systems.
On the one end, phototrophic consortia represent one of the most highly developed and specific symbiosis between two types of bacteria known so far. Their biological interactions demonstrate a close, interwoven relationship at the molecular level. In contrast, heterotrophic bacteria of the phycosphere of unicellular algae are only loosely associated with their algal and cyanobacterial hosts but yet benefit from each other. Finally, we investigate mutualistic interactions between different types of heterotrophic bacteria. Such interactions seem to occur frequently in the environment but little is known on their physiological basis.