Social evolution in microbial communities. Are we competing or working together? hos Biologisk Institut - Københavns Universitet

Project type: Master

Education: Biologi + Biokemi + Molekylær biomedicin + Bioteknologi

Diversity in societies enables a lot of opportunities. Individuals can specialize and perform tasks that benefit the entire community. Some are plumbers, while others are experts in hotel management. Adding other individuals to communities can have either positive or negative implications, depending on the properties of the newcomers and their relations to the native inhabitants. Often, it is unknown whether a new addition will be helpful or detrimental to a community. The same goes for microorganisms. Most bacteria live within a self-produced matrix of secreted biopolymers called a biofilm, where they perform different tasks at varying times and locations. In many cases, biofilms consist of multiple different species with different expertise that either compete for the same resources or benefit from each other’s presence. In this project, we aim to investigate whether bacteria cooperate or compete when mixed and identify the underpinning traits.

We will use a catalogue of bacterial isolates. By mixing bacteria and quantifying their growth and biofilm formation capabilities, we can address whether they compete or cooperate and help clarifying to which extent diversity benefits communities.

The communities that serve either strong promotion or obstruction of biofilm formation will be further investigated to identify parameters determining cooperative and competitive behavior. Whole genome sequencing and subsequent bioinformatic analyses will allow for the identification of biofilm and metabolic genes. Metabolism will then be verified with the use of specific media, single carbon source growth assays and enzyme activity measurements. This information will allow us to delve deeper into the mechanistic processes occurring during biofilm development, rather than just looking at overall effects. 

The project will be conducted at Section for Microbiology at Nørre Campus in Copenhagen. We have a diverse lab environment with researchers focusing on various aspects of microbiology, a high level of interproject interactions. You will have a day-to-day supervisor in the lab that will assist you with practical and scientific tasks and ensure your smooth transition into the group.

The project is flexible and will be well-suited for a microbiology or biochemistry student with an interest in evolution. Do not hesitate to contact us for more information and feel free to come by and have a chat about how to shape the project to match your interests.




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