Lab of environmental and evolutionary microbiology
The key motivation of our group is to understand microbial activities in the environment at a fundamental level, to understand how microbial communities are influenced by human activities and how we can apply microbial processes for improving the quality of our living environment.
Genetic adaptation and evolution of catabolic pathways
One of our major interests is to study how bacteria evolve and adapt to use organic pollutants as novel growth substrates. Bacteria with new degradation capabilities are often selected in polluted environments and have accumulated small (mutations) and large genetic changes (transpositions, recombinations, horizontally transferred elements). One of our past interest was also to understand how regulatory proteins control catabolic pathways. Our model system was the HbpR protein of the 2-hydroxybiphenyl pathway of Pseudomonas azelaica.Current projects in this topic study the specificities and modes of action of self-transmissable genomic islands in Beta- and Gammaproteobacteria, and the complete plasmid mobilome of wastewater treatment plants.
Bacterial bioreporters and pollutant effects
Whole cell bacterial bioreporters are bacteria specifically engineered to react to the presence of chemical signals with the production of an easily quantifiable marker protein.They can be used as simple alternative measuring methods for environmental pollutants or toxicity. Current projects focus on mutagenizing regulatory proteins in order to achieve new effector recognition capabilities, on developing multisensor platforms, on field-testing of an arsenic biosensor in developing countries and on using single-cell information to study bioavailability of poorly water-soluble pollutants.
Furthermore we would like to understand the relation between environmental conditions, pollutant effects and microbial activity. Current projects focus on toxic effects of pollutants on aquatic microbial communities, and on the effects of decreasing water availability on pollutant degradation.
Erwin Schrödinger Price
For their work on the development of a bacterial bioreporter assay for arsenic, Jan Roelof van der Meer, Hauke Harms and Mona Wells (from the UFZ Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig) were awarded the 2010 Erwin Schrödinger Price.
Dep. of Fundamental
CH - 1015 Lausanne
+41 21 692 56 30
Janroelof.vandermeer [at) unil.ch
CV - personal homepage
FP7 project BIOMONAR