Dear KLS members, with the new issue of our newsletter "KLS connected" we would like to inform you about the latest developments in our research focus and briefly summarise the highlights of the past months for you. As always, it is about research, our networking and, of course, outstanding achievements of our members. The scientists of the Collaborative Research Center 1182 "Origin and Function of Metaorganisms" play a leading role in Kiel's life sciences. Now in their eighth year, they are investigating why and how microbial communities form long-term associations with their host organisms and what functional consequences these interactions have for health and disease. Since 2016, they have succeeded in making the CRC 1182, and thus Kiel University an internationally respected, highly connected hub in symbiosis research. This issue therefore focuses on the current status in Kiel's metaorganism research and the prospects for the coming years.
I would like to highlight in advance an important double success for the Kiel life sciences: our professors Tal Dagan and Eva Stukenbrock were each successful in acquiring an ERC Consolidator Grant and will thus further advance evolutionary and plant research at the Kiel University in the future.
The members of Kiel Life Science mourn the death of Prof. Dr. Margret Sauter, who passed away on 2 January 2023 after a serious illness at the age of 63. As a founding member, Margret Sauter accompanied the development of our research area from the very beginning and made a strong contribution to interdisciplinary networking in the life sciences at Kiel University. In 2003, she was appointed professor at the Botanical Institute. Here she represented the field of plant developmental biology in research and teaching until the end. Margret Sauter has been a passionate advocate for the interests of Kiel Life Sciences and in particular the integration of plant research. Her contributions at the annual KLS retreats were always stimulating and purposeful. We will remember Prof. Sauter as a wonderful colleague with honour and gratitude. Our sympathy goes to her relatives and friends.
Also read an obituary of her long-time colleague and companion Prof. Eva Stukenbrock.
The international symposium "Fungi - the forgotten component of metaorganisms" recently took place in Kiel. The conference brought together researchers from the Kiel life sciences and international experts to exchange their research on the involvement of fungi in the microbial colonisation of multicellular host organisms. The Kiel symposium on research into the diversity, function and communication of fungi in various host organisms was jointly organised by the CRC 1182 and the Kiel Plant Center, and jointly hosted by Professor Eva Stukenbrock and Professor Thomas Bosch.
Kiel Life Science strives to further deepen interdisciplinary cooperation at Kiel University and to this end started a series of interdisciplinary workshops last year. Three events on the topics of "Legal Aspects in the Life Sciences", "Biological and Cultural Evolution" and "Cognitive Neurosciences and the Microbiome" made a start and were received with great interest, laying the foundation for closer networking across the boundaries of the respective disciplines. This year, two more workshops are already in preparation: with events on "Nanomicroscopic view on life" and "Microbiome in agricultural systems and human nutrition", an expansion of the range of topics into the nano- and nutritional sciences is planned.
Both workshops will be announced soon on the KLS website.
A research team from the CRC 1182 led by Professor John Baines has used mice to study a polymorphic gene, called B4galnt2, which can affect blood vessels and/or intestinal cells in individual animals. In their pathometagenomic analysis recently published in Gut Microbes, they showed that in mice with the B4galnt2 genotype affecting the blood vessels, the occurrence of inflammation-relevant bacteria is strongly restricted. They thus succeeded in elucidating an exemplary evolutionary trade-off between genetic disease risk and the evolutionary advantage of pathogen resistance.
The International Max Planck Research School for Evolutionary Biology opens its 2023 search for outstanding doctoral researchers, the closing date for formal applications is 12 March. This year KLS is again participating in this programme. IMPRS EvolBio is a joint initiative between the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Kiel University and the GEOMAR. As a graduate school, IMPRS EvolBio offers a doctoral program that delivers outstanding opportunities for young scientists. Participating groups work on a broad variety of scientific topics including molecular evolution, experimental evolution, behavioural ecology, ecological/evolutionary genetics, theoretical and mathematical biology, and major evolutionary transitions.
The European Research Council (ERC) is funding the project "FungalSecrets: The role of the plant microbiota in the evolution of fungal pathogens and their repertoire of secreted proteins" at Kiel University. Over the next five years, Eva Stukenbrock and her research team will be able to investigate how the plant microbiome, i.e. the microbial colonisation of a plant, is influenced by fungal infections at the molecular level. Stukenbrock, spokesperson of the Kiel Plant Center and member of CRC 1182, is receiving an ERC Consolidator Grant for this, which includes two million euros in funding.
Professor Tal Dagan, Institute of General Microbiology and KLS board member, also recently received an ERC Consolidator Grant for her research on the evolution of plasmids. Dagan, who is active in the Kiel Evolution Center and the TransEvo Research Training Group, will receive around two million euros in funding for the next five years. This will enable Dagan and her team in Kiel Microbiology to push ahead with the project "Molecular and Genome Evolution of Prokaryotic Plasmids" (pMolEvol) from spring 2023, in order to create a new, unified concept of the molecular and genomic evolution of plasmids.
SymbNET PhD Summer School 2023 will take place from 02. - 15. July 2023 at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in Portugal. This summer school co-organized by the CRC 1182 aims at training the next generations of researchers in host-microbe symbioses and is for PhD students from diverse geographies and backgrounds, interested in acquiring in depth understanding of the field of Host-Microbe Symbioses from different perspectives. The summer school is designed to teach concepts, identify new research questions, and present state of the art approaches in host-microbe symbiosis.
The CRC 1182 and the communication design team from the Kiel Science Communication Lab recently presented a novel learning app for metaorganism research. The web-based application “Meet the Metaorganism” explains and visualises the interaction of host organisms and symbiotic microorganisms. As a model project for digital teaching, it will initially be used in the training of biology students at Kiel University. The innovative web application is now available as an interactive learning and teaching resource.
The Animal-Microbe Symbioses GRC is a premier, international scientific conference focused on advancing the frontiers of science and focuses on recent advances in evolutionary and functional analyses of symbiotic interactions. It takes place from 17. - 23. June 2023 in Lucca, Italy and is chaired by CRC 1182 spokesperson Thomas Bosch.