Department Microbial Population Biology

Department Microbial Population Biology

The group's work is both theoretical and empirical and makes frequent use of experimental microbial populations to study evolutionary process. Evolutionary transitions in individuality and the origins of multicellularity are a growing fascination.

How sex can help to win the race

Every year the International Max Planck Research School for Evolutionary Biology (IMPRS-EB) holds a retreat. During the retreat, the third year doctoral candidates present their results in a talk; all other doctoral candidates usually present posters. At the end of the retreat there is a prize for the best talk and a prize for the best poster each year. Due to the current situation, this year the retreat took place online via zoom. Posters do not really work there. That’s why the doctoral candidates had the idea that instead of posters a small video about their own work could be produced. Instead of the poster prize there was a prize for the best video clip. This prize was won by Pauline Buffard, doctoral student of the CRC 1182 and member of the IMPRS-ES.
Our work is centred around microbial populations.  We use them as experimental tools to tackle questions concerning the mechanistic basis of ecological and evolutionary process.  We are also interested in the function and ecological significance of the phenotypes / behaviours that bacteria manifest.   
Research themes include the emergence of individuality during major evolutionary transitions, the evolutionary organisation of cells, the production, regulation and ecological significance of extracellular products, the biophysics of mat-formation, selfish genetic elements and their evolutionary impacts on genomes, populations, communities, and even metaorganisms, the emergence and maintenance of diversity, the evolution of contingency and elucidation of rules underpinning adaptive evolution. We also embrace research on the interaction between plants and microbes with particular interest in the origins of crop diseases and the population ecology of commensals. Further information on research themes and projects is available via the links below.
As to tools and approaches, we bring on board technologies and strategies as required, but much of our work uses experimental evolution and the tool-box of analytical genetics, complemented by genome sequencing (and re-sequencing), metagenomics, RNA-Seq, Tn-Seq and similar.  Biophysical approaches are increasingly important.  The department houses a state-of-the-art microscopy unit, plant growth chambers, computational facilities and via our lab at ESPCI in Paris access to cutting edge technologies in micro and millifluidics.  Theory is also an important part of our programme of work.  
Over many years we have made the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 the focus of much activity to the point where it is now an important and useful model in microbiology, genetics and experimental evolution

Detailed information is provided on the departmental website at

 The research in the Microbial Molecular Evolution group combines laboratory experiments, computational methods and mathematical modeling to study the evolution of bacteria, viruses and selfish genetic elements. The research in the group focuses on three main topics: (1) The evolution of phage resistance in bacteria; (2) the ecology and evolution of REPIN populations in bacterial genomes; and (3) the functional significance of the REPIN-RAYT system for bacteria. [more]
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