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Rubisco Evolution
Photo: MPI Marburg / Georg Hochberg

Although invisible to the human eye, microorganisms are at the very core of the global carbon cycle: Microbes release and consume billions of tons of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) annually. They are responsible for more than 50% of the annual transformations of these two important greenhouse gases. Thus, microbes play a key role in carbon cycling in natural ecosystems, agriculture, and biotechnology.

The mission of Microbes-for-Climate Initiative is to gain a fundamental, molecular-mechanistic understanding of CO2- and CH4-converting microorganisms in climate change. This knowledge will be generated in a scale-bridging approach (from the atomic structure of enzymes to the systems level of the cell) through highly interdisciplinary and integrative studies.

Combining molecular evolutionary and biochemical approaches, we will generate an integrative, comprehensive understanding of how microbes evolved the ability to capture CO2 billions of years ago, initiating and shaping the development of the biological carbon cycle (Research Focus: Microbes as Drivers). We will further study, how microbes react (i.e., adjust and evolve) to the challenges presented by the Anthropocene (Research Focus: Microbes as Responders). To overcome the limitations of naturally evolved CO2/CH4-converting processes, we will leverage the methods of synthetic biology and break new ground: We will develop and test “new-to-nature” solutions that open radically novel, more efficient biological paths for CO2/CH4-conversions that nature has not explored so far (Research Focus: Microbes providing Solutions).

Cooperation Partners