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You are hereUNIL > Department of Fundamental Microbiology > Research units

Research units

Collaborators are studying:

  • Environmental and evolutionary microbiology (van der Meer)
    Bacterial evolution and adaptation related to degradation of toxic compounds.
    We aim to understand the evolution, importance and modes of horizontal transmission of integrative and conjugative elements ("genomic islands") in bacteria. These elements reside in bacterial genomes but can excise and self-transfer to new species. One of the key points is that they become active only in a small subpopulation of cells, something called "bistable activation".
    A second large topic is the synthetic design, development and application of bacterial biosensors: strains, which can measure chemical compounds in the environment. Hereto we build gene circuits, we look for new regulatory or sensory proteins, we embed strains in microfluidic systems for miniaturized assays and then further in automated instruments. One of the most important biosensors we made is for the detection of arsenic in potable water.
    Finally, we study a variety of aspects of soil microbial ecology, from community diversity to bioremediation and synthetic community design.


  • Microbial pathogenesis (Moreillon)
  • Antimicrobial agents and experimental infection (Entenza)
    Structure, function and regulation of bacterial molecules interfering with the eucaryotic environment (factors of virulence). Strategies of colonization and invasion of the host in vitro and in vivo. Adaptation to medium change (fever, inflammation). Mechanisms of survival (antibiotic tolerance and resistance). Genomic analysis of virulence genes.
  • Molecular mechanisms underlying eukaryotic cell polarization (Martin)
    We aim to dissect the fundamental mechanisms by which cells spatially self-organize. The ability to define a polarity axis is a fundamental property that underlies many cellular functions. In particular, we study how cells polarize during their proliferative cycle, how this cellular spatial organization modulates cell cycle progression and how the cell re-organizes during sexual differentiation for formation of a diploid zygote. For this we use fission yeasts, which are amongst the simplest eukaryotic cells.
  • Plant disease and pest insect control by beneficial bacteria (Keel)
    Molecular interactions between root-colonizing plant-beneficial pseudomonads, phytopathogenic fungi, pest insects and crop plants: traits involved in pant beneficial-activity of the bacteria and regulation of their expression in response to the host.
  • Quantitative signal transduction in yeast MAPK pathways (Pelet)
    The development of new assays to quantify at the single cell level the activity of these signaling pathways. The aim is to understand the regulation of individual pathways and investigate how signaling specificity is achieved in order to avoid cross-talk in these cascades that share a large number of common components.
  • Gut microbiota of honey bees (Engel)
    Our lab studies functional and evolutionary aspects of microbial symbiosis in animal guts. Specifically, we focus on the gut microbiota of honey bees. We want to address general questions of gut microbiology and understand the role of the microbiota for bee health.


Biophore - CH-1015 Lausanne  - Switzerland  -  Tel. +41 21 692 56 00  -  Fax +41 21 692 56 05
Swiss University