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Junior Research Group Microbial BiotechnologyJunior Research Group Microbial Biotechnology

Junior Research Group Microbial Biotechnology

Our newly-founded research group is interested in how microbes adapt to synthetic compounds (xenobiotics, plastics, surfactants, antimicrobials) in the environment on community, species and protein level. We not only focus on uncovering evolutionary mechanisms that drive microbes to adapt to man-made chemicals, but also explore how to harness the endless metabolic capacities of microorganisms for biotechnological purposes. We use a broad range of techniques from –omics based approaches to cultivation, protein purification and characterization as well as microcosm experiments and mineralization tests (with 13C and 14C-labeled compounds).

Dr. Basak Öztürk

Phone: +49-531/2616-432
Mail: basak.oeztuerke-mail trennerdsmze-mail trennerde

Research Projects

  • Biodegradation and environmental date of biodegradable plastics in the marine environment

Biodegradable plastics, unlike conventional plastics have a hydrolysable backbone, which makes them susceptible to degradation by microorganisms. The biodegradability of these materials are certified according to internationally-standardized testing methods, and are graded as compostable (industrial or home), soil or wastewater biodegradable. However, as the global market share of biodegradable plastics increases, it is still not clear how these new materials would behave in the marine environment due to lack of standardized testing schemes, the complexity of the marine ecosystem and the diversity of materials. In this project, we aim to uncover biodegradation mechanisms of several commercially-relevant biodegradable plastics with culture based and independent approaches. The ultimate aim is to address questions regarding the marine environmental fate of these materials, uncover biodegradation mechanisms and hopefully to use these newly-discovered marine enzymes to enhance the recycling of biodegradable (and conventional) plastics.

  • Comparative genomics of xenobiotic-degrading bacteria

With the isolation of Pseudomonas knackmussii in 1974, it was discovered that bacteria have the unique capability to degrade and mineralize chlorinated aromatic hydrocarbons. The ability of environmental microorganisms to adapt to and degrade synthetic aromatic hydrocarbons since then has been well-studied; however with the emerging of new sequencing technologies, we are able to address a broader range of questions regarding the adaptation of microorganisms to these xenobiotic compounds. In this project, we aim to spy on the lives of several bacterial species that degrade phenylurea herbicides, and try to elucidate how microbes isolated from geographically-distant locations adapt to the same synthetic substrate. This project is done in collaboration with Dirk Springael at KU Leuven.

  • Enzyme sequence-structure-function

A broad aim of this project is to uncover the mechanisms behind the adaptation of proteins that degrade natural compounds to synthetic compounds, and how short evolutionary pathways lead to the expansion of substrate ranges and enzyme families.

Further information