• Our new home

    since summer 2021.

  • 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

A predicted CRISPR-mediated symbiosis between uncultivated archaea.

CRISPR-Cas systems defend prokaryotic cells from invasive DNA of viruses, plasmids and other mobile genetic elements. Here, we show using metagenomics, metatranscriptomics and single-cell genomics that CRISPR systems of widespread, uncultivated archaea can also target chromosomal DNA of archaeal episymbionts of the DPANN superphylum. Using meta-omics datasets from Crystal Geyser and Horonobe Underground Research Laboratory, we find that CRISPR spacers of the hosts Candidatus Altiarchaeum crystalense and Ca. A. horonobense, respectively, match putative essential genes in their episymbionts' genomes of the genus Ca. Huberiarchaeum and that some of these spacers are expressed in situ. Metabolic interaction modelling also reveals complementation between host-episymbiont systems, on the basis of which we propose that episymbionts are either parasitic or mutualistic depending on the genotype of the host. By expanding our analysis to 7,012 archaeal genomes, we suggest that CRISPR-Cas targeting of genomes associated with symbiotic archaea evolved independently in various archaeal lineages.

Esser SP, Rahlff J, Zhao W, Predl M, Plewka J, Sures K, Wimmer F, Lee J, Adam PS, McGonigle J, Turzynski V, Banas I, Schwank K, Krupovic M, Bornemann TLV, Figueroa-Gonzalez PA, Jarett J, Rattei T, Amano Y, Blaby IK, Cheng JF, Brazelton WJ, Beisel CL, Woyke T, Zhang Y, Probst AJ
2023 - Nat Microbiol, 9: 1619-1633

Genome Dynamics and Temperature Adaptation During Experimental Evolution of Obligate Intracellular Bacteria.

Evolution experiments with free-living microbes have radically improved our understanding of genome evolution and how microorganisms adapt. Yet there is a paucity of such research focusing on strictly host-associated bacteria, even though they are widespread in nature. Here, we used the Acanthamoeba symbiont Protochlamydia amoebophila, a distant relative of the human pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis and representative of a large group of protist-associated environmental chlamydiae, as a model to study how obligate intracellular symbionts evolve and adapt to elevated temperature, a prerequisite for the pivotal evolutionary leap from protist to endothermic animal hosts. We established 12 replicate populations under two temperatures (20 °C, 30 °C) for 510 bacterial generations (38 months). We then used infectivity assays and pooled whole-genome resequencing to identify any evolved phenotypes and the molecular basis of adaptation in these bacteria. We observed an overall reduction in infectivity of the symbionts evolved at 30 °C, and we identified numerous nonsynonymous mutations and small indels in these symbiont populations, with several variants persisting throughout multiple time points and reaching high frequencies. This suggests that many mutations may have been beneficial and played an adaptive role. Mutated genes within the same temperature regime were more similar than those between temperature regimes. Our results provide insights into the molecular evolution of intracellular bacteria under the constraints of strict host dependance and highly structured populations and suggest that for chlamydial symbionts of protists, temperature adaptation was facilitated through attenuation of symbiont infectivity as a tradeoff to reduce host cell burden.

Herrera P, Schuster L, Zojer M, Na H, Schwarz J, Wascher F, Kempinger T, Regner A, Rattei T, Horn M
2023 - Genome Biol Evol, 8: in press