Cell-to-cell-signaling in microbial communities of pyrite-oxidizing acidophiles

Project: Cell-to-cell-signaling in microbial communities of pyrite-oxidizing acidophiles

Microorganisms preferentially grow on surfaces in a mixed community of different species, termed 'biofilms'. This project will investigate how cells communicate with each other when forming biofilms on mineral surfaces.

Facts about the project

Project manager
Professor Mark Dopson
Other project members
Sören Bellenberg, Linnaeus University
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Microbiology, Biology & Environmental Sciences (Department of Biology of Environmental Science, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences)

More about the project

Acid loving microbes grow at low pH values and are often present in man-made environments where they are exploited in a biotechnological process for the recovery of metals such as copper from minerals. These microbes are also responsible for an environmental problem associated with uncontrolled release of metal and acids termed "acid mine drainage". The same microorganisms are involved in the useful biotechnological process as the production of the environmentally damaging acid mine drainage.
Acid loving microorganisms typically grow in biofilms that are mixed communities of microbes attached to the surface of sulfide minerals and surrounded by a matrix of polysaccharide. Inside this matrix, the cells are protected from many stresses and they are able to signal to one another using compounds called ‘N-acyl homoserine lactones’. In this project, we will investigate:
  • How cell-to cell communication using N-acyl homoserine lactones influence biofilm formation.
  • How the communication and cell activity are implicated in the succession of microbes present on the mineral surface.
Understanding and controlling microbial community development is one of the greatest challenges in biotechnology and will be useful in optimizing the biotechnological process as well as potentially providing clues how environmentally damaging acid mine drainage may be reduced.

The project is part of the research of the research group Systems Biology of Microorganisms and of Linnaeus University Centre for Ecology and Evolution in Microbial model Systems (EEMiS).