Bernhard Eikmanns prefers not to get involved in research that will end up on bookshelves. So it was an easy decision for the biologist to drop the research he was doing into bacteria that are difficult to cultivate during his doctoral studies and concentrate instead on Corynebacterium glutamicum, a bacterial species that is much easier to cultivate. Corynebacterium glutamicum is an excellent object for scientific research and industrial application. Industrial concerns use this irregularly rod-shaped soil bacterium to produce amino acids such as glutamic acid and lysine by fermentation at scales of several million tons at a time. Like the majority of the 20 amino acids required for the synthesis of proteins, L-glutamic acid and lysine are produced from intermediates of the glucose degradation pathway and the citric acid cycle.
Thermophilic and hyperthermophilic archaea and bacteria give us an idea of the conditions under which organisms evolved as long as 3.5 billion years ago. It is still unclear whether the first cells originated on the surface of hot volcanic springs or on hydrothermal vents in oceans.
What causes stress for some, actually speeds others like extremophilic bacteria up. They love it hot, sour or salty, toxic substances like heavy metals also do them good and even give them energy. As molecular and systems biology techniques get better and better, industry is also becoming increasingly interested in these exotic organisms. What potential does knowing the biochemistry of extremophilic bacteria have for the pharmaceutical, cosmetics and sanitary articles industries? Whatever the answer might turn out to be, there is certainly a growing trend towards using extremophilic microbes in academic and industrial research.
What can we do with all the waste produced by private households? One possible solution is to feed it into a fridge-sized tank in the cellar or garage that can convert waste into electricity. Dr. Sven Kerzenmacher and Dr. Johannes Gescher from the University of Freiburg are hoping that one day such a vision will be made possible through the use of bacteria. The two researchers work with so-called exoelectrogenic microorganisms which they put into batteries. What stage of development have bacterial fuel cells reached?
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in particulate matter in our environment are currently being studied by a network of institutes and research institutions, both in Germany and around the world. The impact of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other toxic components of particulate matter on human and animal health is not yet known in detail. However, their impact on the development of lung diseases such as asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases as well as cancer of the respiratory system is relatively well known. The Human and Environmental Toxicology research group at the University of Konstanz is working on establishing new methods to assess particulates polluted with environmental toxins with the overall objective of identifying potential consequences for humans and animals.
Empa Testmaterials AG focuses on the research and development of test systems and materials that enable biofilm to be successfully removed from washing machines as well as controlling the level of hygiene of individual wash cycles. As a competence centre in washing and cleaning the company specialises in the assessment of washing and cleaning processes in terms of effectiveness energy efficiency damage and hygiene.
David Schleheck biologist at the University of Konstanz focuses on the bacterial degradation of surfactants and LAS in particular. The results of his research are of huge importance for the recycling of grey water in areas including home sewage treatment systems for example.
A new BMBF joint project to transfer systems biology research directly into practical applications is profiting from Insilico Biotechnology’s expertise. The goal is to make Pseudomonas bacterial strains fit for commercial use in the field of industrial biocatalysis. The project will run for three years, coordinated by BASF and financed with approx. EUR 5.5 million. Insilico Biotechnology is the second partner from industry, while all others are university research institutes, mostly from the region around Stuttgart.
Moisture and warmth create the ideal living conditions for a wide range ofmicro-organisms which can pose a risk to human health. Now, a new quick testing kit for bacteria means that the microbiological contamination of water or other surfaces can be measured directly in situ, with no need for expensive and time-consuming laboratory tests.
Bacterial cells are focused on growth and proliferation. These processes are initiated by cellular enzymes that break up the cell wall material murein introduce new material and degrade material that is no longer needed. And all this in large amounts about 50 per cent of murein are degraded and newly formed turnover per cell generation. Dr. Christoph Mayer and his team from the University of Constance have shown that the cells carry out effective recycling processes.
Aromatic rings are extremely stable and very difficult to break apart. Prof. Dr. Matthias Boll from the University of Freiburg’s Faculty of Biology and his team work with Geobacter metallireducens, a bacterium that can completely degrade aromatic compounds under strictly anaerobic conditions. While the biological degradation of aromatic hydrocarbons is of global relevance, the chemical resulting from the reduction of benzene rings could also be of pharmaceutical interest.
All washing agents and household detergents contain surface-active agents that bind and dissolve dirt. Up until now these agents have been produced from organic compounds extracted from mineral oil. Due to the ongoing debate on sustainability more and more manufacturers are focusing on biological alternatives. The research group led by Dr. Rudolf Hausmann at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT is investigating the conditions under which microorganisms produce so-called biological surfactants. These substances are as effective as their synthetic counterparts and they are also biologically degradable.
It is difficult to believe that unicellular organisms such as archaea and bacteria can have developed sophisticated strategies to fight off foreign nucleic acids. However, many of these tiny organisms actually possess a virus defence mechanism known as CRISPR/Cas. Compared to this defence mechanism, protective mechanisms such as restriction and modification appear extremely clumsy indeed.
At first sight nothing much seems to grow in either the Namib desert or the Antarctic. However a closer inspection of the ground a few centimetres below the surface reveals an enormous diversity of organisms. Industry is well aware of this rich source of microorganisms that have something to offer on the molecular level as well as for use in technical applications. So-called extremozymes have long been popular ingredients in cosmetics detergents and medicines. However little is yet known about their properties and application potential. Prof. Dr. Christoph Syldatk and his team from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT are involved in the search for biochemical exotics and are extremely enthusiastic about what remains to be discovered.
Most of what is easily accessible has in principle already been discovered said Dr. Ivan Berg from the University of Freiburg explaining why he is investigating the metabolic pathways in extremophilic microorganisms. The researcher and his team are interested in the biochemistry of organisms living in hot volcanic springs and the Dead Sea. Examples of this are two metabolic pathways which the researchers from Freiburg discovered in organisms belonging to the Crenarchaeota. The bacteria use the pathways to assimilate atmospheric carbon dioxide without the risk of poisoning themselves with the breakdown products arising at high temperatures. What can industry learn from extremophilic bacteria? What are the advantages and disadvantages for laboratory applications? And what can we learn from them about evolution on Earth?
In early 2015, a company called Biotensidon GmbH from Karlsruhe established a white biotechnology subsidiary to develop a fermenter prototype for producing rhamnolipids, which are excellent bacterial surfactants. The project, which was carried out in cooperation with scientists from the Science & Technology Center in Ukraine, means that traditional petroleum-based surfactants can now be replaced by biosurfactants. The latter are extremely versatile and 100% biodegradable.
Dr. Bianca Hermann from the University of Freiburg specialises in multi-haem enzymes, and investigates the enzymes’ structure and reaction mechanisms. She has clarified the enzymes’ crystal structure and reaction mechanisms and found out why the bacterial MccA enzyme complex can reduce sulphur-containing substances such as sulphites up to a hundred times faster than other enzymes.
When an oil spill occurs, chemical dispersants are routinely applied to the surface of the oil-contaminated seawater or into deeper water regions. Dr. Sara Kleindienst, a molecular ecologist from the Centre for Applied Geoscience at the University of Tübingen, has now shown that chemical dispersants do not stimulate oil biodegradation. In cooperation with an international team of researchers, Kleindienst simulated the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and obtained unexpected results on the degradation of harmful substances following oil spills.
Researchers worldwide are working to develop new technologies for producing clean energy. A team of researchers led by Sven Kerzenmacher at the University of Freiburg's Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) is interested in combining wastewater and bacteria, an approach that is both unusual and promising.
Some time ago, thanks to BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg, the biotechnology company Novis GmbH met Prof. Dr. Andreas Kappler, a renowned geomicrobiologist at the University of Tübingen.The two partners went on to test bioleaching methods for their ability to recover metals from slag using bacteria. In an interview with Dr. Thomas Helle, CEO of Novis GmbH, Dr. Ursula Göttert, on behalf of BIOPRO, asked what has become of the project.
Butyric acid is an important source of fruity aromas. It accumulates as an intermediary product during biogas production, from where it can be siphoned off and used for producing flavours. A new collaborative project aims to explore the technological and bioeconomic potential of extracting butyric acid from biogas plants.
DNA replication is a critical event in the cell division process. The genetic material must only be replicated once. So, how does a bacterial cell ensure that only one single replication occurs and that the process is not repeated several times? Microbiologists under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Peter Graumann from the Institute of Biology II in Freiburg, in cooperation with international cooperation partners from Paris, have deciphered a mechanism in the bactericum Bacillus subtilis that involves the capture of a specific protein.
Fermentative Production of Succinic Acid is the title of one of the projects being worked on by the BiopolymersBiomaterials cluster in Baden-Württemberg. Researchers from BASF SE one of the project partners have isolated a bacterium with highly promising properties including the ability to use glycerine a waste product of biodiesel production as substrate for the efficient production of succinic acid.
Outdoor lovers and athletes love them: water-repellent jackets and trousers. However, many consumers are unaware that the chemicals used to functionalise the textile surface often pollute the environment. Organic fluorine compounds (perfluorocarbons = PFC) are usually added to textiles to make them water-repellent. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB and the Hohenstein Group are researching an environmentally friendly and sustainable method for making textiles water-repellent.
Protein misfolding and aggregation can lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers. Prof. Elke Deuerling at the University of Constance is investigating the molecular helpers the chaperones and the key role that they have in protein folding. Deuerling uses the bakers yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the bacterium Eschericia coli for her studies. Her studies involving E. coli have now shown that ribosome-associated chaperones are highly important for their role in protecting proteins during synthesis and folding.