• Our aim is to advance our understanding of biological systems,

    ranging from single species to multi-species systems and ecosystems,

    based on data from large-scale bioanalytical methods.

  • We develop, improve and apply

    computational methods

    for the interpretation of molecular information in biology.

  • We establish and analyse

    quantitative mathematical models.


Latest publications

Highly variable mRNA half-life time within marine bacterial taxa and functional genes.

Messenger RNA can provide valuable insights into the variability of metabolic processes of microorganisms. However, due to uncertainties that include the stability of RNA, its application for activity profiling of environmental samples is questionable. We explored different factors affecting the decay rate of transcripts of three marine bacterial isolates using qPCR and determined mRNA half-life time of specific bacterial taxa and of functional genes by metatranscriptomics of a coastal environmental prokaryotic community. The half-life time of transcripts from 11 genes from bacterial isolates ranged from 1 to 46 min. About 80% of the analysed transcripts exhibited half-live times shorter than 10 min. Significant differences were found in the half-life time between mRNA and rRNA. The half-life time of mRNA obtained from a coastal metatranscriptome ranged from 9 to 400 min. The shortest half-life times of the metatranscriptome corresponded to transcripts from the same clusters of orthologous groups (COGs) in all bacterial classes. The prevalence of short mRNA half-life time in genes related to defence mechanisms and motility indicate a tight connection of RNA decay rate to environmental stressors. The short half-life time of RNA and its high variability needs to be considered when assessing metatranscriptomes especially in environmental samples.

Steiner PA, De Corte D, Geijo J, Mena C, Yokokawa T, Rattei T, Herndl GJ, Sintes E
2019 - Environ. Microbiol., in press

Thermal stress modifies the marine sponge virome.

Marine sponges can form stable partnerships with a wide diversity of microbes and viruses, and this high intraspecies symbiont specificity makes them ideal models for exploring how host-associated viromes respond to changing environmental conditions. Here we exposed the abundant Great Barrier Reef sponge Rhopaloiedes odorabile to elevated seawater temperature for 48 h and utilised a metaviromic approach to assess the response of the associated viral community. An increase in endogenous retro-transcribing viruses within the Caulimorviridae and Retroviridae families was detected within the first 12 h of exposure to 32 °C, and a 30-fold increase in retro-transcribing viruses was evident after 48 h at 32 °C. Thermally stressed sponges also exhibited a complete loss of ssDNA viruses which were prevalent in field samples and sponges from the control temperature treatment. Despite these viromic changes, functional analysis failed to detect any loss or gain of auxiliary metabolic genes, indicating that viral communities are not providing a direct competitive advantage to their host under thermal stress. In contrast, endogenous sponge retro-transcribing viruses appear to be replicating under thermal stress, and consistent with retroviral infections in other organisms, may be contributing to the previously described rapid decline in host health evident at elevated temperature.

Laffy PW, Botté ES, Wood-Charlson EM, Weynberg KD, Rattei T, Webster NS
2019 - Environ Microbiol Rep, in press

Characterization of a thaumarchaeal symbiont that drives incomplete nitrification in the tropical sponge Ianthella basta.

Marine sponges represent one of the few eukaryotic groups that frequently harbour symbiotic members of the Thaumarchaeota, which are important chemoautotrophic ammonia-oxidizers in many environments. However, in most studies, direct demonstration of ammonia-oxidation by these archaea within sponges is lacking, and little is known about sponge-specific adaptations of ammonia-oxidizing archaea (AOA). Here, we characterized the thaumarchaeal symbiont of the marine sponge Ianthella basta using metaproteogenomics, fluorescence in situ hybridization, qPCR and isotope-based functional assays. 'Candidatus Nitrosospongia ianthellae' is only distantly related to cultured AOA. It is an abundant symbiont that is solely responsible for nitrite formation from ammonia in I. basta that surprisingly does not harbour nitrite-oxidizing microbes. Furthermore, this AOA is equipped with an expanded set of extracellular subtilisin-like proteases, a metalloprotease unique among archaea, as well as a putative branched-chain amino acid ABC transporter. This repertoire is strongly indicative of a mixotrophic lifestyle and is (with slight variations) also found in other sponge-associated, but not in free-living AOA. We predict that this feature as well as an expanded and unique set of secreted serpins (protease inhibitors), a unique array of eukaryotic-like proteins, and a DNA-phosporothioation system, represent important adaptations of AOA to life within these ancient filter-feeding animals.

Moeller FU, Webster NS, Herbold CW, Behnam F, Domman D, Albertsen M, Mooshammer M, Markert S, Turaev D, Becher D, Rattei T, Schweder T, Richter A, Watzka M, Nielsen PH, Wagner M
2019 - Environ. Microbiol., in press