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  • We seek to understand

    the role of microorganisms in Earth's nutrient cycles

    and as symbionts of other organisms

  • Cycling of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur

    affect the health of our planet

  • The human microbiome -

    Our own social network of microbial friends

  • Ancient invaders -

    Bacterial symbionts of amoebae

    and the evolution of the intracellular lifestyle

  • Marine symbioses:

    Listening in on conversations

    between animals and the microbes they can't live without

  • Single cell techniques offer new insights

    into the ecology of microbes

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Latest publications

Bacterial interactions during sequential degradation of cyanobacterial necromass in a sulfidic arctic marine sediment

Seafloor microorganisms impact global carbon cycling by mineralizing vast quantities of organic matter (OM) from pelagic primary production, which is predicted to increase in the Arctic because of diminishing sea ice cover. We studied microbial interspecies-carbon-flow during anaerobic OM degradation in arctic marine sediment using stable isotope probing. We supplemented sediment incubations with 13C-labeled cyanobacterial necromass (spirulina), mimicking fresh OM input, or acetate, an important OM degradation intermediate, and monitored sulfate reduction rates and concentrations of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) during substrate degradation. Sequential 16S rRNA gene and transcript amplicon sequencing and fluorescence in situ hybridization combined with Raman microspectroscopy revealed that only few bacterial species were the main degraders of 13C-spirulina necromass. Psychrilyobacter, Psychromonas, Marinifilum, Colwellia, Marinilabiaceae and Clostridiales species were likely involved in the primary hydrolysis and fermentation of spirulina. VFAs, mainly acetate, produced from spirulina degradation were mineralized by sulfate-reducing bacteria and an Arcobacter species. Cellular activity of Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfobulbaceae species during acetoclastic sulfate reduction was largely decoupled from relative 16S rRNA gene abundance shifts. Our findings provide new insights into the identities and physiological constraints that determine the population dynamics of key microorganisms during complex OM degradation in arctic marine sediments.

Müller AL, Pelikan C, de Rezende JR, Wasmund K, Putz M, Glombitza C, Kjeldsen KU, Jørgensen BB, Loy A
2018 - Environ Microbiol, In press

Detection of Chlamydiaceae and Chlamydia-like organisms on the ocular surface of children and adults from a trachoma-endemic region

Trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness, is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct), a bacterium of the phylum Chlamydiae. Recent investigations revealed the existence of additional families within the phylum Chlamydiae, also termed Chlamydia-like organisms (CLOs). In this study, the frequency of Ct and CLOs was examined in the eyes of healthy Sudanese (control) participants and those with trachoma (case). We tested 96 children (54 cases and 42 controls) and 93 adults (51 cases and 42 controls) using broad-range Chlamydiae and Ct-specific (omcB) real-time PCR. Samples positive by broad-range Chlamydiae testing were subjected to DNA sequencing. Overall Chlamydiae prevalence was 36%. Sequences corresponded to unclassified and classified Chlamydiae. Ct infection rate was significantly higher in children (31.5%) compared to adults (0%) with trachoma (p < 0.0001). In general, 21.5% of adults and 4.2% of children tested positive for CLOs (p = 0.0003). Our findings are consistent with previous investigations describing the central role of Ct in trachoma among children. This is the first study examining human eyes for the presence of CLOs. We found an age-dependent distribution of CLO DNA in human eyes with significantly higher positivity in adults. Further studies are needed to understand the impact of CLOs in trachoma pathogenicity and/or protection.

Ghasemian E, Inic-Kanada A, Collingro A, Tagini F, Stein E, Alchalabi H, Schuerer N, Keše D, Babiker BE, Borel N, Greub G, Barisani-Asenbauer T
2018 - Sci Rep, 1: 7432

Long-distance electron transport in individual, living cable bacteria

Electron transport within living cells is essential for energy conservation in all respiring and photosynthetic organisms. While a few bacteria transport electrons over micrometer distances to their surroundings, filaments of cable bacteria are hypothesized to conduct electric currents over centimeter distances. We used resonance Raman microscopy to analyze cytochrome redox states in living cable bacteria. Cable-bacteria filaments were placed in microscope chambers with sulfide as electron source and oxygen as electron sink at opposite ends. Along individual filaments a gradient in cytochrome redox potential was detected, which immediately broke down upon removal of oxygen or laser cutting of the filaments. Without access to oxygen, a rapid shift toward more reduced cytochromes was observed, as electrons were no longer drained from the filament but accumulated in the cellular cytochromes. These results provide direct evidence for long-distance electron transport in living multicellular bacteria.

Bjerg JT, Boschker HTS, Larsen S, Berry D, Schmid M, Millo D, Tataru P, Meysman FJR, Wagner M, Nielsen LP, Schramm A
2018 - Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, ahead of print

Lecture series

Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics of Microbial Populations in the Wild

Martin Polz
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
14.06.2018
12:00 h
Hörsaal 2, UZA 1, Althanstr. 14, 1090 Wien