Synthetic Biology

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Synthetic Biology

We are interested in how bacteria communicate with, and respond to changes occurring within their environment. This information flow between a cell and its surrounding is called signal transduction. Our primary research focus is to identify and characterize signal transducing systems (two-component systems and extracytoplasmic function (ECF) sigma factors) involved in mediating bacterial stress responses with special emphasize on HOW bacteria detect their input signal, i.e. the mechanism of stimulus perception. Moreover, we investigate the molecular basis for the specificity of interaction interfaces in bacterial signaling. This work will ultimately allow us to re-wire and modulate the information flow through the corresponding regulatory systems. A third central area of research is to understand how those systems are embedded in and wired within complex regulatory networks and global signaling cascades.


Towards that end, we combine methods from classical molecular genetics (site-specific, random, sequential and transposon mutagenesis; gene deletion and complementation studies; reporter gene fusions; promoter dissection studies; Northern blots) with genome-wide expression profiling (DNA microarray analysis) and comparative genomics approaches. For the in-depth study of individual regulatory systems, we furthermore apply biochemical techniques (protein purification, protein-protein interaction studies, Western blots, protein topology and localization studies, etc.). Our primary working horse is Bacillus subtilis, the model organism for the low G+C Gram-positive (Firmicutes) bacteria. Other bacteria studied in our lab are Bacillus licheniformis, Escherichia coli and Rhodobacter sphaeroides.

Recent overview articles

  1. Gebhard S. and Mascher T. (2011) Antimicrobial peptide sensing and detoxification modules: unraveling the regulatory circuitry of Staphylococcus aureus. Mol. Microbiol. 81: 581-7.
  2. StaroĊ„ A., Mascher T. (2010). Extracytoplasmic function σ factors come of age. Microbe 4: 164-170.
  3. Jordan S, Hutchings MI, and Mascher T. (2008) Cell envelope stress response in Gram-positive bacteria. FEMS Microbiol. Rev. 32: 107-146
  4. Mascher T., Helmann J.D., and Unden G. (2006) Stimulus perception in bacterial signal-transducing histidine kinases. Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 70: 910-938
  5. Mascher T. (2006) Intramembrane-sensing histidine kinases: a new family of cell envelope stress sensors in Firmicutes bacteria. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 264: 133-144