My research interest lies in the development and application of biological mass spectrometry to study membrane-related processes in living systems. Current research addresses three main areas:
1. Proteome turnover and membrane proteases
Membrane proteases have many important functional roles. Examples for microorganisms are quality control of membrane proteins and participation in quorum sensing. However, due to technical challenges, substrates and physiological role of membrane proteases remain largely elusive. In order to close this gap of knowledge, I a recently developed proteome turnover approach, employing metabolic labeling for the dissection of protein synthesis and degradation and data analysis using the web platform QuPE, to adequately address this challenge. Currently, the research foci are prokaryotic/microbial membrane proteases, LonB from the archaeon Haloferax volcanii and FtsH from the bacterium Corynebacterium glutamicum. The strategy is to use proteome turnover analysis in different strains and using different growth conditions to discover substrates based on changing proteolysis kinetics.
2. Sperm signal transduction
Mature sperm do not show transcription or translation. Therefore, proteomics is the favored method for global analysis of these cells. Especially, I am interested in changes in the proteome, including protein posttranslational modifications (PTMs) that are central to chemosensation and signal transduction. Ultimate goal is a systems biology interpretation of signal transduction, which requires accurate quantification of cellular components. Achieving this goal for integral membrane proteins poses additional challenges, such as selecting of an adequate standard for protein quantification. Here, I am active in developing methods to monitor temporal changes in PTMs and to elucidate subunit stoichiometries of membrane protein complexes. Understanding sensory signaling in mammalian sperm is key for the development of better diagnostic tools for male infertility and its treatment. This project is done in collaboration with U. Benjamin Kaupp (research center Caesar, Bonn) and Timo Strünker (University Hospital, Münster).
3. Regulation of lipid metabolism in Nannochloropsis
Harnessing the potential of algae for bioenergy sources, like the oil and the biohydrogen production, is highly attractive, but it still requires substantial research activities to become industrially feasible. Essentially, it is my aim for strain engineering to deepen the knowledge of molecular networks that can be manipulated to achieve desired traits (e.g. CO2 conversion rate, tailored lipid production) and to ultimately produce such strains by applying these techniques and knowledge. This aim requires a solid understanding of the molecular networks relevant for each goal. Relating to the changes of the proteome under different growth conditions and the role of protein posttranslational modifications in regulation of networks and enzyme activities, close to nothing is known. In collaboration with Jian Xu and other researchers from QiBEBT –omics technologies are employed on multiple levels (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics) in combination with bioinformatics to untangle the networks and to integrate and link the obtained information in a database, which will become an invaluable resource for future research.
I have been involved in industrial research projects with Qiagen, Evonik, Cube Biotech, and Merck
Research degrees awarded to supervised students
I have supervised 6 PhD students (currently supervising 3 PhD students); 16 MSc students.
Grants & contracts
|02/15-03/18 ||ERASysAPP research network „SysMetEx, Systems Biology of acidophile biofilms for efficient metal extraction” (Funding amount ~450.000€) |
| 06/14-08/17 || WTZ German/Argentinian collaboration project with Prof. de Castro, University Mar del Plata: “ProMikro, The role of membrane proteases for the adaptation of microorganisms to the environment“ (Funding amount ~27.000€) |
| 05/13-06/17 || DFG/CDZ German/Chinese collaboration project with Prof. Kang Ning, QIBEBT-CAS, Qingdao: „Combination of single-cell sorting and proteomics to understand microbial heterogeneity“ (Funding amount: ~180.000€) |
| 01/10-06/13 || BMBF research network: “GerontoMitoSys - Mitochondrial networks of pathways in ageing and life span control- a systems biology approach” (Funding amount: 180.000€), Project: “Quantitative analysis of age-related protein modifications” |
| 10/09-12/12 || BMBF research network: ‘FlexFit – Improving the flexibility and fitness of Corynebacterium glutamicum for industrial biotechnology’ (Funding amount: 290.000€), Project: “Analysis of protein damage in C. glutamicum and its role for physiological fitness” |
| 10/09 || Junior group funding of Ruhr University Bochum (Funding amount: ~30.000€) |
| 09/09-12/13 || BMBF grant: ‘MetaZyme’ – a new approach for the kinetic analysis of metabolic pathways (focus on sphingolipid biosynthesis in yeast) (Funding amount: 1.550.000€) |