• Our new home

    since summer 2021.

  • Hunting for microbes since 2003

  • We seek to understand

    the role of microorganisms in Earth's nutrient cycles

    and as symbionts of other organisms

  • Cycling of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur

    affect the health of our planet

  • The human microbiome -

    Our own social network of microbial friends

  • Ancient invaders -

    Bacterial symbionts of amoebae

    and the evolution of the intracellular lifestyle

  • Marine symbioses:

    Listening in on conversations

    between animals and the microbes they can't live without

  • Single cell techniques offer new insights

    into the ecology of microbes

  • Doctoral School in Microbiology and Environmental Sciences

  • PhD program in Microbial Symbioses

    A special FWF funded track in our doctoral school

Dome News

Latest publications

Conservation of energetic pathways for electroautotrophy in the uncultivated candidate order Tenderiales

Electromicrobiology can be used to understand extracellular electron uptake in previously undescribed chemolithotrophs. Enrichment and characterization of the uncultivated electroautotroph "Candidatus Tenderia electrophaga" using electromicrobiology led to the designation of the order Tenderiales. Representative Tenderiales metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) have been identified in a number of environmental surveys, yet a comprehensive characterization of conserved genes for extracellular electron uptake has thus far not been conducted. Using comparative genomics, we identified conserved orthologous genes within the Tenderiales and nearest-neighbor orders important for extracellular electron uptake based on a previously proposed pathway from "Ca. Tenderia electrophaga." The Tenderiales contained a conserved cluster we designated uetABCDEFGHIJ, which encodes proteins containing features that would enable transport of extracellular electrons to cytoplasmic membrane-bound energy-transducing complexes such as two conserved cytochrome cbb3 oxidases. For example, UetJ is predicted to be an extracellular undecaheme c-type cytochrome that forms a heme wire. We also identified clusters of genes predicted to facilitate assembly and maturation of electron transport proteins, as well as cellular attachment to surfaces. Autotrophy among the Tenderiales is supported by the presence of carbon fixation and stress response pathways that could allow cellular growth by extracellular electron uptake. Key differences between the Tenderiales and other known neutrophilic iron oxidizers were revealed, including very few Cyc2 genes in the Tenderiales. Our results reveal a possible conserved pathway for extracellular electron uptake and suggest that the Tenderiales have an ecological role in coupling metal or mineral redox chemistry and the carbon cycle in marine and brackish sediments. IMPORTANCE Chemolithotrophic bacteria capable of extracellular electron uptake to drive energy metabolism and CO2 fixation are known as electroautotrophs. The recently described order Tenderiales contains the uncultivated electroautotroph "Ca. Tenderia electrophaga." The "Ca. Tenderia electrophaga" genome contains genes proposed to make up a previously undescribed extracellular electron uptake pathway. Here, we use comparative genomics to show that this pathway is well conserved among Tenderiales spp. recovered by metagenome-assembled genomes. This conservation extends to near neighbors of the Tenderiales but not to other well-studied chemolithotrophs, including iron and sulfur oxidizers, indicating that these genes may be useful markers of growth using insoluble extracellular electron donors. Our findings suggest that extracellular electron uptake and electroautotrophy may be pervasive among the Tenderiales, and the geographic locations from which metagenome-assembled genomes were recovered offer clues to their natural ecological niche.

Eddie BJ, Bird LJ, Pelikan C, Mussmann M, Martinez-Perez C, Pinamang P, Malanoski AP, Glaven SM
2023 - mSphere, in press

One to host them all: genomics of the diverse bacterial endosymbionts of the spider Oedothorax gibbosus

Bacterial endosymbionts of the groups Wolbachia, Cardinium and Rickettsiaceae are well known for their diverse effects on their arthropod hosts, ranging from mutualistic relationships to reproductive phenotypes. Here, we analysed a unique system in which the dwarf spider Oedothorax gibbosus is co-infected with up to five different endosymbionts affiliated with Wolbachia, ‘Candidatus Tisiphia’ (formerly Torix group Rickettsia), Cardinium and Rhabdochlamydia. Using short-read genome sequencing data, we show that the endosymbionts are heterogeneously distributed among O. gibbosus populations and are frequently found co-infecting spider individuals. To study this intricate host–endosymbiont system on a genome-resolved level, we used long-read sequencing to reconstruct closed genomes of the Wolbachia, ‘Ca. Tisiphia’ and Cardinium endosymbionts. We provide insights into the ecology and evolution of the endosymbionts and shed light on the interactions with their spider host. We detected high quantities of transposable elements in all endosymbiont genomes and provide evidence that ancestors of the Cardinium, ‘Ca. Tisiphia’ and Wolbachia endosymbionts have co-infected the same hosts in the past. Our findings contribute to broadening our knowledge about endosymbionts infecting one of the largest animal phyla on Earth and show the usefulness of transposable elements as an evolutionary ‘contact-tracing’ tool.

Halter T, Köstlbacher S, Rattei T, Hendrickx F, Manzano-Marín A, Horn M
2023 - Microb. Genomics, 9: 10.1099/mgen.0.00094

Rapid nitrification involving comammox and canonical Nitrospira at extreme pH in saline-alkaline lakes

Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) catalyse the second nitrification step and are the main biological source of nitrate. The most diverse and widespread NOB genus is Nitrospira, which also contains complete ammonia oxidizers (comammox) that oxidize ammonia to nitrate. To date, little is known about the occurrence and biology of comammox and canonical nitrite oxidizing Nitrospira in extremely alkaline environments. Here, we studied the seasonal distribution and diversity, and the effect of short-term pH changes on comammox and canonical Nitrospira in sediments of two saline, highly alkaline lakes. We identified diverse canonical and comammox Nitrospira clade A-like phylotypes as the only detectable NOB during more than a year, suggesting their major importance for nitrification in these habitats. Gross nitrification rates measured in microcosm incubations were highest at pH 10 and considerably faster than reported for other natural, aquatic environments. Nitrification could be attributed to canonical and comammox Nitrospira and to Nitrososphaerales ammonia-oxidizing archaea. Furthermore, our data suggested that comammox Nitrospira contributed to ammonia oxidation at an extremely alkaline pH of 11. These results identify saline, highly alkaline lake sediments as environments of uniquely strong nitrification with novel comammox Nitrospira as key microbial players.

Daebeler A, Güell-Bujons Q, Mooshammer M, Zechmeister T, Herbold CW, Richter A, Wagner M, Daims H
2023 - Environ Microbiol, in press

Lecture series

DOME Lecture: "Selection on the accessory genome can predict bacterial evolution"

Bill Hanage, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, USA
Associate Professor,
12:00 h
hybrid, UBB HS 2