In nature, various different microorganisms form highly complex communities in which every species has a distinct role. One example are symbiotic associations of a phototrophic cyanobacteria or algae and a heterotrophic fungi – so called lichens. Our goal is the de novo design of a synthetic cross-kingdom community inspired by a lichen.
The major topics currently under investigation in our laboratory are
Large-scale, sustainable production of sesquiterpenes from cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria, photoautotrophic prokaryotes that inhabit vast niches of the Earth, are quickly gaining traction in applied research. With more knowledge and more tools becoming available, research is progressing to a point in which they are being considered more and more as a biotechnological chassis.
Synthetic Triterpene Biosynthesis
The development of cyanobacteria as host organisms for biotechnological applications has attracted increasing interest in recent years. Several production systems for compounds with low structural complexity such as alcohols, sugars and fatty acids have been established in cyanobacteria model strains. In our working group we conduct research on cyanobacterial host systems to produce high value components like terpenoids.
Diversity of cyanobacterial circadian clocks
Cyanobacteria use a circadian clock to control cellular processes in daily cycles. In our group we aim at understanding the role and complexity of clock proteins beyond the model organism Synechococcus elongatus PCC7942. Currently our work focuses mainly on Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803.
Synthetic Gene Regulatory Systems in Cyanobacteria
While cyanobacteria are becoming increasingly attractive for various research applications, robust transcriptional and translational regulatory systems are still limited. While many systems are available for established model organisms such as E. coli, these often fail to translate directly to nonconventional model organisms.
We use the following tools for our laboratory work:
- Modern molecular cloning methods (BioBrick assembly, Gibson & Aqua Cloning)
- Report-gene activity measurements
- RNA analysis (purification, hybridization, qPCR, in-line probing)
- RNA interaction with RNA, proteins, ligands
- Recombinant protein expression in E. coli and cyanobacteria
- Protein purification and characterization (interaction studies, activity assays)
- Metabolic engineering of cyanobacteria
- Phenotypic analysis of cyanobacterial mutants
We use the following tools for our computational work:
- In silico cloning with SnapGene
- Data analyses with Python 3 and Jupyter Notebook/Lab
- Data analyses with R and RStudio
- Comparative genomic analysis
- Flux Balance Analysis with COBRApy