Projekt Leader

Dr. Dirk Steinhauser

Project Leader
Phone:+49 331 567-8218


Systems Metabolomics

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.

Polar plot graph showing the difference in metabolite patterns among the cyanobacterial strains Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, Nostoc sp. PCC 7120, and Oscillatoria sp. PCC 7112. Zoom Image
Polar plot graph showing the difference in metabolite patterns among the cyanobacterial strains Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, Nostoc sp. PCC 7120, and Oscillatoria sp. PCC 7112. [less]

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:

  1. to functionally understand metabolic adaptation and diversification, and
  2. to exploit the knowledge for biotechnological applications.

The current main research areas comprise:

A systems oriented approach of cyanobacterial metabolic adaptations to and diversity in highly fluctuating environments

Phototrophic organisms play an essential role as primary producers in the global carbon and nitrogen cycle on Earth. Amongst them, cyanobacteria are an ancient group of prokaryotes that perform oxygenic photosynthesis to convert solar energy into organic matter. Thus, cyanobacteria have been used for decades as models to study oxygenic photosynthesis as well as other, plant-like processes in a bacterial background. [more]

A systems oriented approach towards compartmentalized metabolic networks, their dynamics and interconnections

The eukaryotic cell comprises a large number of subcellular compartments and organelles. While theses compartments are physically and biochemically distinct, a tight inter- and intra-compartmental process regulation in relation to external as well as internal stimuli is essential for the metabolic functionality of the eukaryotic cell [more]

A computational approach towards mass spectrometry data alignment and compound annotation

A key challenge in mass spectrometry - based metabolomics is the unambiguous identification of metabolites from complex sample mixtures. This gets even more complicated in comparative studies aiming at the non-targeted alignment of metabolic profiles across species. [more]
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