Bacteria interact with virtually all complex eukaryotic life forms and largely influence their fitness. A key factor for these interactions is the enormous biochemical, physiological and cellular adaptation potential of bacteria in response to the host environment and to fluctuations in conditions in non-host associated states. Understanding the molecular-mechanistic repertoire of bacteria to sense, interpret, respond and adapt to environmental changes is pivotal to understand how they influence the complex web of interactions in their ecosystems. In our lab, we study the genetics, physiology and cell biology of bacteria-host interactions and their evolution. We aim at understanding the fundamental design principles of bacterial genome architecture and of the sensing and regulatory mechanisms that underly the bacterial capacity of adaptation. This knowledge sets the ground to test and apply the discovered principles with synthetic biology. Our major bacterial model organisms belong to the Alphaproteobacteria ‒ one of the most abundant classes of bacteria on Earth. Alphaproteobacteria are remarkably diverse and many members of this class of bacteria are closely associated to complex life forms. Many intracellular pathogens and symbionts of animals, humans, plants, and other eukaryotes are Alphaproteobacteria. A major focus of our research is on soil-dwelling alphaproteobacterial rhizobia that are capable of entering a nitrogen-fixing root nodule endosymbiosis with leguminous plants.
Further research interests are bacterial surface polysaccharides, digital information storage in DNA, evolution and function of bacterial multipartite genome architectures, and exploration of alphaproteobacterial chassis, such as Sinorhizobia and Methylobacteria, for synthetic microbiology and biotechnology.
bacterial cell biology
genomics and transcriptomics
bacterial genome editing and engineering
1. Krol E, Yau HCL, Lechner M, Schäper S, Bange G, Vollmer W, Becker A (2020) Tol-Pal system and Rgs proteins interact to promote unipolar growth and cell division in Sinorhizobium meliloti. mBio 11: e00306-20
2. Schäper S, Steinchen W, Krol E, Altegoer F, Skotnicka D, Søgaard-Andersen L, Bange G, Becker A (2017) AraC-like transcriptional activator CuxR binds c‑di‑GMP by a PilZ-like mechanism to regulate extracellular polysaccharide production. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 114: E4822-E4831
3. Döhlemann J, Wagner M, Happel C, Carrillo M, Sobetzko P, Erb TJ, Thanbichler M, Becker A (2017) A family of single copy repABC-type shuttle vectors stably maintained in the alpha-proteobacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti. ACS Synth Biol 6: 968-984