The main research activities in our group are:
• Screening, purification and biochemical characterization of biocatalysts from extremophilic microorganisms and from metagenomic libraries.
We focus on glycoside hydrolases as well as on sugar isomerases, dehydrogenases and esterases. A major aim of this project is to establish alternative bacterial hosts (other than E. coli) for use in functional screenings of metagenomic libraries and for gene (over)expression. Currently we work with Thermus thermophilus and Micrococcus luteus.
• Genetic tools development and metabolic engineering in Micrococcus luteus.
M. luteus is a high G+C Gram-positive bacterium with both historical and biotechnological importance. One of the topics we investigate in this organism is the biosynthesis of branched, long-chain alkenes, which can serve as advanced biofuels (supported by FNR project 22007913).
• Natural transformation in the group of high G+C Gram-positive bacteria.
Although Actinobacteria have been one of the first microorganisms where natural transformation has been demonstrated, detailed studies have not been performed for any representative of the whole phylum. Using again M. luteus as a model organism, we study the structural components involved in natural transformation and the regulation of competence development in this bacterial group.
We have also been involved in the sequencing and annotation of several microbial genomes, for example of the extreme acidophile Picrophilus torridus, an archaeon which grows best at 65°C and pH values around 0. More recently, we have completed the first genome of a free-living spirochete, Spirochaeta thermophila.