Metabolic Engineering of Halophiles (2017-2020)

In this project - funded by the BMBF - we aim to establish a research group dedicated to the use of systems biology to better understand industrially relevant halophilic microorganisms and develop new strains with better performance.

This project focuses on ectoine production by the halophilic bacteria Halomonas elongata. The reasons for that choice are not only the interest of ectoine as a novel product for medicine and cosmetics but also the potential of H. elongata for further biotechnological applications. Ectoine is a highly soluble organic molecule that belongs to the group of "compatible solutes". Compatible solutes do not normally bear electrical charge at physiological pH and can therefore accumulate in high amounts without interfering in cellular processes. Due to these features, ectoine is found as an osmotic agent in a wide range of cell types and has also been shown to stabilize and protect macromolecules in adverse conditions. The current applications of ectoine cover a wide range of different fields like biomedicine, cosmetics, suppoprt roles in analytic and industrial processes and bioremediation. The methodological focus of the project will be on interaction between computational and experimental approaches and the development of reusable methods and tools.

We intend to formulate a mathematical model of ectoine metabolism and use it to guide the design of improved strains able to achieve higher yields and also produce ectoine efficiently from a wider spectrum of raw materials.


This objective will be divided in four parts:

  1. Reconstruct the metabolic network of H. elongata.

  2. Extract the relevant subset of the network to develop a mathematical model of ectoine production based on experimental data.

  3. Use the model to develop a strategy for the enhancement of ectoine production.

  4. Obtain mutant strains by implementing such a strategy, test it in the laboratory and transfer it to industrial production conditions.

Damalige Projektbetreeung:
Dr. Alberto Marin-Sanguino
Dr. Martina Cantone
M.Sc. Karina Hobmeier