Microorganisms are exposed to a continuously changing environment. We study the molecular mechanisms enabling growth of microorganisms in such a dynamic environment. The program is organized in two sub-programs. The eukaryotic research program studies regulation and dynamics of growth and development of saprobic and human pathogenic fungi. The prokaryotic research program studies mechanisms and dynamics of protein secretion and dynamics and biogenesis of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. Both sub-programs are multidisciplinary, driven by fundamental questions, and of interest for the industry and public health.

Objectives: We aim to unravel how microbes adapt to changing environments. We study underlying regulatory mechanisms and the secretion of proteins that modulate the outer surface and the immune response. In the eukaryotic program, we study why only a subset of the hyphae are active in protein secretion and which proteins are secreted in response to a change in the environmental conditions. Moreover, we study how reproductive structures are formed as a response to the changing environment. In the prokaryotic program, we study how proteins are inserted into or transported across the bacterial outer membrane and how lipopolysaccharides (LPS; a major lipid component of the outer membrane and an important signaling compound for the innate immune system) are transported to this membrane. Moreover, we study how bacteria adapt the composition of the outer membrane and the set of secreted proteins in response to the environment.

The knowledge gained in our projects is used to optimize large scale production processes of proteins and mushrooms and is used in vaccine development programs.

Research in the group of Microbiology focuses on understanding the mechanisms involved in secretion of proteins and the role of secreted proteins in bacterial membrane biogenesis and fungal growth and development. Prof. Dr. H.A.B. Wösten is head of the fungal group. Prof. Dr. J.P.M. Tommassen is head of the bacterial group.

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