Functional characterization of microbial interactions in inflammatory bowel diseases

Principal Investigator

Prof. Dr. med.

Associated Doctoral Researcher

Associated Principal Investigator

Background and current state of research

Bacteria and other microorganisms have an immense influence on their host’s life. Especially the composition of the gut microbiota has a huge impact not only in maintaining the hosts gut homeostasis, but also influencing the maturation of the host’s immune system, forming an intestinal barrier against pathogens and metabolizing non-digestible carbohydrates, which can be used as energy source by the host. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease, a chronic and relapsing disease of the gut, have a disturbed microbial ecosystem with a reduced diversity of the microbial community. This disease is associated with serious health complications due to an imbalanced immune response and the loss of tolerance to the resident intestinal microbiota. The actual cause of the disease remains unknown. While the genetic profile of the gut microbiota is well investigated, functional characteristics of the microbiome have not been further analyzed. Investigating the regulatory and compensatory mechanisms in microbial communities on a functional level would provide a better understanding of the gut microbiome during the course of the inflammatory bowel disease.

This is a research project within the DFG Research Unit F5042 miTarget.

Our goals

One of the main goals of our work is to analyze and understand the molecular patterns of bacterial isolates correlated with their role in inflammatory bowel disease. The molecular potential and phenotypic plasticity of the gut bacteria should be investigated. The goal is to get better insights into the interaction between the host and the bacterial communities, also on the molecular level.  Another goal is to identify specific requirements to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Furthermore, the regulatory mechanisms in microbial communities of patients with inflammatory bowel disease should be investigated, which optimally leads to the identification of new biomarkers and may result in therapeutic approaches.


This project is part of the RU 5042.

How to get there

Cultivations of IBD relevant microbes under different conditions and stressors mimicking the gut habitat will be performed, which is going to help to investigate the phenotypically and molecular changes in the microbial community during the disease. For this characterization, various methods with different cooperation partners will be established, such as proteomics, metabolomics, and genome sequencing. The proteomic spectrum of bacterial co-cultivations could help to identify protein profiles and should improve protein annotations. A metabolic community modelling should analyze intra- and extracellular metabolites of bacterial species known to have effects in IBD. Furthermore, bacterial co-cultures and bacteria-host cell co-cultural methods will be established.