Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine

RG Heilbronner

Research Focus

Gene duplication and amplification (GDA) describes a RecA dependent genetic process allowing the creation of gene arrays (identical copies of genes in a repeated fashion). These arrays are able to expand and contract in an accordion-like fashion. GDAs are frequently associated with unusual resistances against antibiotics. However little is known about the frequency of duplications in clinical populations of pathogens and the importance of the mechanism to influence the success of a lineage during colonization or during invasive disease is unclear.

We found that the GDA of a haem acquisition system in Staphylococcus lugdunensis transfers a competitive advantage to the lineage to thrive on haem as sole source of nutrient iron. This shows how GDAs can help to overcome selective pressures build up by our immune system. Furthermore, we found that GDAs are frequent in clinical populations of Staphylococcus aureus, affecting especially genic loci encoding lipoproteins. GDAs of this locus leads to phenotypic switching and the impacts on colonization and disease are under current investigation.


Simon Heilbronner studied Biology with microbiology as major and immunology as minor subject in Tübingen (Germany) and Uppsala (Sweden). Having gained the Diploma he went to Ireland to work in the lab of Prof. Timothy J. Foster in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) where he earned his PhD-degree in 2013. Supported by an individual Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship he moved back to Germany where he now establishes his research group focusing on gene duplication and amplifications in staphylococci and their influence on infectivity and virulence.


Group members

Name/E-Mail Funktion
Simon Heilbronner Postdoc
Lea Adolf Ph.D. student
Angelika Jochim Ph.D. student
Vera Augsburger Technician
Detlinde Futter-Bryniok Technician
Darya Belikova Technician

Selected publications