“I am delighted that we can further strengthen biological research at HHU through the acquisition of a new joint project. It addresses an important area of research, which will have a significant impact in application,” says President Professor Dr Anja Steinbeck, congratulating Professor Feldbrügge as spokesperson of the CRC team. “I would like to thank the entire application team, which has brought researchers from four universities and two research facilities together, and beat off stiff competition.”
CRC 1535 “Microbial networking – from organelles to cross-kingdom communities” (MibiNet)
Microorganisms are not solitary entities, but rather live together in complex communities. They have an enormous influence on health and many ecosystems. In a similar way to human communities, microorganisms do not live together as self-sufficient units, but rather interact and communicate by exchanging nutrients and information with each other.
The new CRC has brought this interaction and communication together under the term “microbial networking”, which takes place at various levels: From so-called intracellular endosymbionts – formerly autonomous organisms absorbed into the cells of other organisms as organelles in the course of evolution – such as mitochondria and chloroplasts, through to intercellular communities, which may comprise prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms, such as the microbiome in the human intestine.
“The objective of MibiNet is to understand microbial networking in all its complexity in order to gain important insights into the evolution of organelles and the function of microbiomes,” explains Professor Feldbrügge from the Institute of Microbiology at HHU. State-of-the-art technology will be used, which is capable of taking measurements in the living organisms themselves (“in vivo”) without the measurement process having an impact on these organisms. For example, optogenetic switches and biosensor systems enable minimally invasive analysis of intracellular networks and research into cross-species interactions.
The projects in the new CRC are aimed at learning from natural interactions. Synthetically engineered designer organelles, endosymbionts or microbial consortia will then be used to verify the underlying principles. The quantitative data obtained will subsequently be used to establish and improve theoretical concepts and mathematical models.
Professor Julia Frunzke from the Institute of Bio- and Geosciences 1 at FZJ: “Our new CRC will deliver fundamental findings that will enable the targeted manipulation and re-design of microbial networks and communities in the future. This will open up new horizons for innovative applications in the areas of medicine, agriculture and biotechnology.”
Professor Michael Feldbrügge from HHU is spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Centre, while Professor Julia Frunzke from FZJ, who is also a professor at HHU, is co-spokesperson. Further cooperation partners include Aachen University of Technology (RWTH), Bielefeld University, the University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne. The project comprises a total of twelve research groups, three central projects and the integrated Graduate School “MibiNeⓍt”. The funding totals around 11 million euros.