WWTF VRG Molecular Host-Microbe Interactions

Here we investigated several fundamental aspects of marine host-microbe interactions.

Molecular host-microbe crosstalk. Molecular host-microbe crosstalk is the language used by symbiotic partners to recognize and communicate with one another. The innate immune system of bivalves allows them to interact specifically with their symbionts and to tell them apart from the diverse 'crowd' of bacteria in their environment. Many beneficial microbes use similar molecular mechanisms to communicate with their hosts as pathogenic microbes use to ‘hijack’ their hosts. How these mechanisms evolved, and which factors determine whether they will be used for ‘good’ or ‘evil’ is currently not well understood. Our approach uses field experiments and laboratory experiments in aquaria at the University of Vienna. The goal of our work is to better understand of the molecular basis of beneficial host-microbe associations.

Fine-scale microbial diversity and the individuality of the microbiome. Fine-scale diversity in bacteria is the diversity seen within traditionally accepted species boundaries. Recent studies have revealed a remarkable diversity of microbes in nature, and have provided insights into how fine-scale diversity emerges and how it is maintained in natural populations. Investigating the fine-scale diversity of host-associated microbes have revealed the remarkable individuality of these microbes, meaning that each individual animal, including each human being, hosts its own genetically unique microbiome. The next challenge is to understand how microbial fine-scale genetic diversity affects their function. Our research therefore relies on state-of-the-art techniques for quantifying microbial activity in nature. Our goal is to understand the role of fine-scale diversity in the functioning and evolutionary stability of host-microbe associations.

Funded until August 2023 by a highly competitive 'Vienna Research Group' grant of the the Vienna Science and Technology Fund. 

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