Host cells interact with bacterial pathogens in a milieu dominated not only by chemical but also mechanical signals, including those imposed on them by the extracellular environment or neighboring cells. The Bastounis Lab wants to reveal (i) how bacteria hijack host cellular forces to facilitate their spread, and (ii) which biomechanical strategies host cells use to obstruct bacterial dissemination. The lab intends to discover novel biomechanical virulence mechanisms and new aspects of host cell and tissue mechanobiology.
The Baumdicker Lab combines mathematical population genetics theory, computational biology, and machine learning approaches to understand how the diversity of microbes emerged and how bacterial populations cooperate to adapt to their environment. Focus is on (i) understanding how the transfer of genetic material and the evolutionary dynamics of gene gain and loss influence the composition of bacterial pan-genomes; (ii) explaining the maintenance and spread of CRISPR-Cas systems in prokaryotic populations; (iii) improving the estimation and classification of bacterial genome evolution and human population history.
The human body, and the gut in particular, provides an ideal ecosystem for microbial communities, which in turn play a fundamental role in human physiology and pathology. The Maier Lab aims at assessing the stability of these microbial communities, and their ability to silence pathogenic members of the community and to resist intruders. It also aims to understand how drugs can impact communities and whether one could use drugs to restore a healthy balance.
Methanogens are part of the human gut microbiome but very little is known on the interactions between methanogens and the rest of the microbiome. The Molitor Lab is interested in (i) mining new methanogen-specific viruses and (ii) studying the interaction of these viruses with their methanogenic hosts. The long term goal is to investigate the influence of methanogenic viruses within microbial communities and to deploy these viruses to modulate the composition of microbiomes.
Being able to identify a wide range of small molecules in complex environments provides us with thousands of compounds but little knowledge about their ecological relevance. Combining a unique expertise at the interface of natural product research, mass-spectrometry-based metabolomics and proteomics as well as chemical biology, the Petras Lab aims to determine the influence of small molecules on complex microbial communities and mine novel bioactive compounds. The long-term goal is to investigate the molecular function and the role of natural products in shaping the structure of microbial communities and the interaction of these assemblies with their hosts.
Microbes usually don’t live isolated but together with myriads of other microbes in large communities, in the environment as well as on and in our bodies. Despite their importance for human health, we have very limited understanding of the mechanisms that shape and govern these communities. The long term goal of the Ratzke lab is to understand how interactions between microbes can prevent microbial infections and how microbial communities could be modified and constructed for medical applications.