Targeted Fishing

Targeted “Fishing” for Microbial Interaction Partners

Targeted Fishing
Image: Martin Taubert

Microorganisms are major drivers of the global biogeochemical cycles, but microbial activity itself is driven in turn by microbial interactions. Especially host-specific interactions, including symbiotic or parasitic microorganisms, are assumed to have strong influences on hosts and consequentially on the balance of the entire microbiome. Such symbiotic or parasitic traits have suggested to be a key feature of the ultra-small members of the newly described Candidate Phyla Radiation (CPR).

This project is embedded in the Excellence Cluster Balance of the Microverse and aims at the isolation of co-cultures of symbiotic microorganisms, e.g., members of the Candidate Phyla Radiation (CPR), and their microbial hosts, as well as the targeted identification of interaction partners of key players in microbial communities. This will be achieved by a novel targeted ‘fishing’ approach using labeled host cells as ‘baits’ to capture interaction partners from environmental samples and short-term incubations, leveraging the platforms offered by the Microverse center.

Dr. Martin Taubert and his junior group team will select putative hosts and interaction partners of the targeted organisms and label them in pure culture. The labeled cells will then be used to inoculate environmental as well as medical samples to established physical contact between host and interaction partner. Following that, the host cells including symbionts, as well as partners of trophic interactions, will be separated from the background community with microfluidics cell sorting, using the label signal as trigger. The sorted cells will be subjected to high throughput screening for host species that have successfully acquired partner organisms, and for cells that have been involved in trophic interactions with the labeled hosts.