Forschungszentrum Borstel
Forschungszentrum Borstel

Priority Research Area Infections

Biophysics

Projects

The basic philosophy of the Division of Biophysics is interdisciplinary research spanning biological, chemical and physical aspects. We aim at studying biological phenomena with medical relevance. The Division of Biophysics investigates structure, function, and activity of bacterial membranes and of pathogenicity factors released thereof. A focus is the interaction of membranes with natural and synthetic antimicrobial peptides and proteins (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Scientific projects.
Fig. 1: Scientific projects.

Bacterial membrane pathogenicity factors function as structural elements and as targets for peptides/proteins of the host´s immune system and for antibiotics. During damage or killing of bacteria these pathogenicity factors, such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of Gram-negative bacteria, may be released into the circulation and activate immune cells. This activation leads to an inflammation which may finally result in blood poisoning (sepsis). A prerequisite for our research is the understanding of the structure of membranes and proteins. These information help us to characterize the interactions between membranes and peptides/proteins, and with that their biological functions. Our investigations include cells, bacteria, and reconstitution systems for biological membranes, i.e. lipid monolayers, liposomes, planar lipid bilayers and solid-supported membranes. To do so, we acquire and develop a variety of biophysical techniques (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Methods and scientific questions in the Division of Biophysics for the investigation of biological membranes.
Methods and scientific questions

Scientific questions: