DFG top research funding

New Collaborative Research Center at HHU: Microbial Networks

Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) is celebrating a success in attracting large collaborative projects: As the German Research Foundation (DFG) announced today, a new Collaborative Research Center (SFB) at HHU from the field of biology will be funded for the next four years: Spokesperson of the SFB 1535 "MiBiNet" is Prof. Dr. Michael Feldbrügge, co-speaker is Prof. Dr. Julia Frunzke from the Research Center Jülich (FZJ) and HHU. The SFB's topic is communities of microorganisms.

Prof. Dr. Michael Feldbrügge (l.) from HHU is spokesperson, Prof. Dr. Julia Frunzke from Forschungszentrum Jülich and HHU is co-spokesperson of SFB 1535 "Microbial networking - from organelles to cross-kingdom communities".

"I am very pleased that the acquisition of a new collaborative project will further strengthen biological research at HHU. This addresses an important field of research that will have great impact in application," said Rector Prof. Dr. Anja Steinbeck, congratulating SFB spokesperson Prof. Feldbrügge on behalf of the SFB. "I thank the entire proposal team, which brought together researchers from four universities and two research institutions and prevailed in a highly competitive environment."

SFB 1535 "Microbial networking - from organelles to cross-kingdom communities" (MibiNet).

Microorganisms are not solitary organisms, but live in complex communities. These have an enormous impact on health and on many ecosystems. Similar to human communities, microorganisms do not live together as self-sufficient units, but interact and communicate by exchanging nutrients and information with each other.

The new SFB summarizes this interaction and communication under the term "Microbial Networking". It takes place on different levels: From the so-called intracellular endosymbionts - formerly autonomous organisms incorporated into cells as organelles in the course of evolution - such as mitochondria and chloroplasts, to intercellular communities that can consist of prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms, such as the microbiome in the human gut.

"MibiNet aims to understand microbial networking in its comprehensive complexity in order to gain important insights into the evolution of organelles as well as the function of microbiomes," explains Prof. Dr. Michael Feldbrügge from the Institute of Microbiology at HHU. State-of-the-art techniques are used that can measure in the living organisms themselves ("in vivo") without affecting them through the measurement process. For example, optogenetic switches and biosensor systems enable a minimally invasive analysis of intracellular networks as well as the investigation of cross-species interactions.

The projects of the new SFB aim to learn 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 then be used to generate and improve theoretical concepts and mathematical models.

Prof. Dr. Julia Frunzke from the Institute of Biosciences and Geosciences 1 at Forschungszentrum Jülich: "Our new SFB will provide fundamental insights to specifically manipulate and redesign microbial networks and communities in the future. This opens up new horizons for innovative applications in the fields of medicine, agriculture and biotechnology."

The spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center is Prof. Dr. Michael Feldbrügge from HHU, and the co-spokesperson is Prof. Dr. Julia Frunzke from FZJ, who is also a professor at HHU. Other cooperation partners are the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, the University of Bielefeld, the University of Cologne and the Max Planck for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne. The project comprises a total of twelve research groups, three central projects and the integrated research training group "MibiNeⓍt". The funding volume totals around 11 million euros.

Arne Claussen

Press release of the DFG

Autor/in: Dr. Arne Claussen

Last Modified: 27.03.2023