Complex microbial communities are comprised of diverse, interacting species. Often, such interactions result in outcomes that cannot be predicted from studies of their individual components in isolation. However, the underlying mechanisms resulting in such community intrinsic properties remain unidentified. The overarching aim of BioMatrix is to identify the molecular mechanisms underpinning community intrinsic properties of bacterial communities.
In nature, bacterial communities are predominantly organized as biofilms in which the cells are encased in a self-produced polymeric matrix. I hypothesize that the altered matrix composition of multispecies biofilms is the primary cause of community intrinsic properties defining bacterial communities. BioMatrix will test this hypothesis using expression studies of genes encoding matrix components and functional assessments of gene deletions leading to loss of specific matrix components. These will be addressed in settings of increasing environmental and community complexity, thus ensuring ecological relevance. High-resolution methodologies for single-cell detection will be combined with advanced image analysis to enable crucial micro-scale studies of bacterial communities. New approaches, such as printing 3D leaves suitable for manipulation and microscopy analysis, will be developed and applied to expand exploration to in situ conditions.
BioMatrix will close a primary knowledge gap in microbial ecology, by identifying fundamental mechanisms shaping bacterial communities. The impact of these mechanisms for community function and protection will be validated in settings of high community and environmental complexity. This will theoretically and experimentally advance biofilm research, addressing a severe bias towards in vitro studies of model organisms. The fundamental findings of BioMatrix will be directly applicable in a variety of biotechnological industries depending on community activity, interaction and resilience.
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