Sugar Molecules Influence the Degradation of Algal Blooms - DFG to Fund Marine Proteomic Research

Polysaccharide-degrading bacteria (green) on the diatom Chaetoceros sp. Photo: PD Dr. Bernhard Fuchs

The POMPU research unit focuses on polysaccharides, which are long chains of sugar molecules, produced by marine algae. Microalgae, which are active in the recurring marine algal blooms of spring and summer, are of particular relevance for the degradation of these molecules. While one single bacterium cannot utilise the complex algal polysaccharides on its own, a community of different bacteria that work together can manage this difficult task. The researchers want to examine the genomes and proteomes of these bacterial communities to shed light on protein functions, and to find out how the bacteria work together to utilise the complex chains of sugars in a short period of time. 

The foundation for the research unit was laid by the Project Microbial Interactions in MArine Systems (MIMAS) - funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research - which managed to develop new methods of metaproteomics. These methods make it possible to directly determine the activity of the mainly unknown bacteria in complex microbial communities in their natural habitat, in the sea. In cooperation with the Biological Institute Helgoland from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, an extensive biobank has been created, housing phytoplankton samples from North Sea algal blooms in spring and summer. This helped the cooperation partners prove for the first time, that the biomass which is created in the seas after an algal bloom, is degraded bit by bit by highly specialised bacteria within a strict timeframe.

The POMPU research unit would like to elucidate important ecological functions of these marine bacteria during microalgal blooms und to thus improve the understanding of relevant mechanisms of the “biological pump function” of the seas in the age of global warming. The functional analysis of key marine bacteria and enzymes, planned by the research unit, will possibly also reveal new perspectives on how to exploit the promising potential of marine polysaccharides from microalgae in a targeted biotechnological manner.

Further Information
Institute of Pharmacy, University of Greifswald
Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, University of Greifswald
Institute of Marine Biotechnology, Greifswald
Max Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology, Bremen

Polysaccharide-degrading bacteria (green) on the diatom Chaetoceros sp.
Photo: PD Dr. Bernhard Fuchs
The photo can be downloaded and used for free for editorial purposes in combination with this media release. You must name the image author. Download


Contact at the University of Greifswald
Prof. Dr. Thomas Schweder
Pharmaceutical Biotechnology
Institute of Pharmacy
Felix-Hausdorff-Straße 3
17489 Greifswald
Tel.: +49 3834 86-4212

Contact at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology
Prof. Dr. Rudolf Amann
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology
Celsiusstraße 1
28359 Bremen
Tel.: +49 421 2028-930