The main research activities in our group are:
• Natural transformation in Actinobacteria.
Natural transformation is widespread in Bacteria and enables them to acquire new genetic traits and to adapt to changing environmental conditions. This process can lead to the spread of antibiotic resistance and the emergence of new pathogenic strains. Although natural transformation has been documented in more than 80 bacterial species, the structural components and the regulation of competence development is derived from only a few model organisms. In members of the Actinobacteria, transformation has been shown to exist more than four decades ago, however, the competence system has not been studied since then in any representative of the entire phylum. It is highly probable that the regulators and the mechanisms leading to expression of competence-related genes in some cells of Micrococcus luteus are completely different from the well-studied model systems, and this may be the case for many representatives of the Actinobacteria.
• Identfication of novel biocatalysts
Sugar beet pulp (SBP) is a lignocellulosic by-product of the table sugar industry. This bio-conversion is of great biotechnological importance. The aim of this project is to explore potential enzymatic diversity by functional metagenomic library screening by using Escherichia coli as expression host. Further, novel biocatalysts should be found by searching in existing sequence information from certain robust SBP-degraders, such as Paenibacillus and Clostridium.
• Metagenome screening in Bacillus or Paenibacillus as expression host
Function based metagenome analyses are almost exclusively performed in the classical cloning and expression host Escherichia coli. However, since the genetic diversity of complex environmental samples is vast, only a fraction of the genes encoding a certain function in a metagenomic library can be successfully detected. It is therefore important to use alternative host organisms. The overall aim of this project is to develop an alternative Gram-positive host/expression system, based on Bacillus or Paenibacillus for functional metagenomic studies, and to apply this new system for the identification of genes for secretory enzymes from environmental samples.
• Metagenome screening in Thermus thermophilus as expression host
The main aim of the project is to investigate microbial communities from terrestrial hot springs from two northern Argentinian provinces, Jujuy and Salta. It is focused on gaining knowledge about this practically unstudied places. Besides, this project will provide additional outstanding support of the idea that the use of alternative hosts for functional metagenome screening can reveal genes for enzymes which would not be detected by using classical expression hosts like Escherichia coli.