The group of Dr. Dirk Steinhauser focuses on deciphering the causes and the consequences of environmental adaptation and survival in the context of metabolic diversity and evolution. Interdisciplinary research approaches combining ‘omics’ technologies and bioinformatics are conducted to mechanistically elucidate key responses in systems adaptation and their diversification.
The temporal and spatial variations of abiotic factors have been the driving force for the acquisition and evolution of many cellular functions and properties of organisms. These permit them to thrive and survive in richly diverse and fluctuating environments.
As metabolic variations are sensitive cellular responses to environmental changes, their detailed and comprehensive analysis using non-targeted metabolite profiling represents the basis and an ideal entry point to functionally elucidate genes – metabolites – phenotypes and their relationships. To study the regulation and adaptation of metabolism in an evolutionary and ecological context comparative, functional and reverse metabolomics approaches are applied.
While taking advantage of various pro- and eukaryotic model organisms with complete genome information available, a special emphasis lays on the natural diversity of phototrophic microalgae in particular cyanobacteria. In cyanobacteria we are especially interested in the elucidation of metabolic pathways and associated genes underpinning mechanistic regulatory processes in adapting to highly fluctuating environments.
Besides our efforts in contributing towards a better understanding of the biochemical and metabolic diversity of cyanobacteria but also of other organisms, the long-term goals are:
- to functionally understand metabolic adaptation and diversification, and
- to exploit the knowledge for biotechnological applications.
The current main research areas comprise: