Research topics

Mission statement

Microorganisms, in particular Streptomyces, are well known as producers of both structurally highly diverse and pharmaceutically invalueable secondary metabolites e.g. polyketides. However, the role of such compounds for the producing organism in its natural environment is largely unknown. Indeed, most natural products from microorganisms have been isolated from pure cultures in pharmacological screenings. From whole genome sequencing projects and genome mining it was realised that most microorganisms have much more genes for secondary metabolite production than the number of compounds known from them.

But microorganisms induce their secondary metabolism in responce to abiotic factors or other organisms in symbiotic to pathogenic relationships. Thus products from "sleeping genes" may only be produced under appropriate growth conditions. Indeed, often the interacting partners cannot be separated: many micro­organisms cannot be cultivated or behave very differently when isolated compared to their natural association. Therefore, when studying the chemistry of microbial interactions their life style should be considered. 

With my research about microbial chemical ecology I want to contribute to the understanding of both secondary metabolite formation and regulation. Furthermore we investigate the role of secondary metabolites for the producing organism as well as associated neighbouring organisms.

The study of microbial chemical ecology is not only crucial to understand the chemistry of the interactions between organisms but will contribute to applications in biotechnology and pharmacology.

Current focus

Methods

In order to investigate the chemical ecology of microorganisms we follow an inter­disciplinary approach combining chemistry and biochemistry with molecular biology and ecology:

  • analytical chemistry

  • biological chemistry

  • synthetic chemistry

  • molecular biology

  • ecology