Cell division is a vital process, and yet, we still do not know exactly how bacterial cells divide. We use the well-known bacterial model system Bacillus subtilis to study the dynamic interaction between cell division proteins using molecular biological and fluorescence microscopy and techniques. This latter technique is also very useful to study the mode of action of novel antimicrobial compounds, which is called bacterial cytological profiling. We this and other tools to identify and characterize new antimicrobial compounds.
B. subtilis is used in the bioindustry to produce enzymes and vitamins. The bacterium is also used as a probiotic in animal feed, and in fact it is eaten by humans in the form of Natto. In collaboration with industrial partners we help to further optimize B. subtilis for applied purposes.
The morphology of rod-shaped bacteria is achieved through two very dynamic synthetic complexes: the elongasome and the divisome. The elongasomes are recruited by the actin-like cytoskeleton MreB protein and move in an helical path to insert new peptidoglycan subunits along the cell envelope. The divisome is responsible for division. Cell division is directed by the FtsZ ring (a tubulin homolog). How the elongasome and divisome work is still surrounded by questions that we investigate in vivo using immunofluorescence and fluorescence microscopy techniques (FRET, FLIM, FRAP, immunolocalization) and in vitro using biochemical and biophysical techniques.
Elongasome and divisome proteins are essential and provide ideal antibiotic targets. We develop fluorescence-based assays to find and study new antimicrobial compounds to target these proteins.
We aim to integrate knowledge on the biochemical and biophysical properties of signal transduction- and metabolic networks that regulate and underlie fermentation, respiration and oxygenic photosynthesis. Ultimately, we want to understand how the environment, through evolution and natural selection, shapes microbes to be equipped with the capacity to deal with the fluctuations they encounter. For our studies, we focus on the industrially relevant lactic acid bacterium Lactococcus lactis and the model organism for studies in oxygenic photosynthesis Synechocystis PCC6803. Both organisms are highly relevant for the transition of our society towards a sustainable bio-based economy.