Microbes know only one constant: change!

A new Collaborative Research Centre (Sonderforschungsbereich SFB) at the Philipps-Universität looks into the unique ability of microorganisms to deal with permanently changing environments. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) funds the SFB 987 with the title „Microbial diversity in environmental signal response“ for the following four years with an estimated seven million €


May 2012 - “The successful application of the new SFB once again documents the excellent scientific achievements in the area of microbiology in Marburg” says Professor Dr. Frank Bremmer, the Vice President of Research. “The establishment of the SFB will consolidate Marburg’s position as a focal point of microbiological research and increase its international visibility”. The collaboration not only profits from the proximity of the Max Planck Institute for terrestrial Microbiology, but also from the concentrated competence of the LOEWE-Zentrum für Synthetische Mikrobiologie.

Microorganisms occur all over the earth and exhibit the largest diversity of all life-forms on our planet. The development of new microbial species with unique characters is a response to constantly changing environmental conditions. “There is only one constant for most microorganisms: change!” states professor of biochemistry Dr. Mohamed Marahiel, the speaker of the new SFB. Their excellent capacity for change enables bacteria, fungi, and archaebacteria to adapt to and take advantage of new conditions in their habitat.

„A unique feature of our research initiative is the use of a broad spectrum of bacteria, Archaea and fungal species” explains microbiologist Professor Dr. Erhard Bremer, deputy speaker of the SFB. The new initiative focuses on: The detection of specific nutrients, contact areas and changes in ecosystems as well as the resulting adaptations. The research program comprises a combination of ecological and molecular methods in understand to explain the different strategies in signal perception and response. “Ultimately, our goal is to better understand the complex way of life and flexible adaptation of organisms in their natural habitat” explains Marahiel.

In order to address these ambitious questions, the SFB comprises 15 microbiologically oriented groups of the Philipps-Universität and the Max Planck Institute for terrestrial Microbiology. „The initiative can build on a long successful collaboration of university and the MPI“ emphasizes Bremer. Furthermore, the project can take advantage of the substantial investments in electron microscopy, mass spectrometry and crystallography made by the LOEWE-Zentrum für Synthetische Mikrobiologie.

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