Forschungszentrum Borstel
Forschungszentrum Borstel

Priority Research Area Infections

Bioanalytical Chemistry


The RG Bioanalytical Chemistry focus on the identification and quantitation of membrane components and immunological active biomolecules. Our RG is specialized in the analysis of lipids, glycol-conjugates and cell wall components. We aim to reveal signaling cascades and biosynthetic pathways on the molecular level, which are altered due to inflammation and infection. For that we develop and apply OMICs workflows and methods for structural characterization. In our RG, we unite competences in mass spectrometry (MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) approaches enabling in-depth studies of metabolic processes in biological model system as well as clinical samples.

Selected Projects

(1) Structure-function analysis of mycobacterial cell wall components
To develop diagnostic tools as well as new therapeutic strategies against M. tuberculosis (M.tb) we require a better understanding how the pathogen interacts with the cell membranes and receptors of the host. For that we advance analytical approaches using mass spectrometry (MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). In our research for the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF) we search for lipid molecules that can be used as diagnostic markers during therapy. Together with our collaborators (Microbial Interface Biology, Cellular Microbiology, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Molecular Mycobacteriology, National Reference Center for M.tb) we study membrane bound processes and lipid metabolic alterations that enable M.tb to escape the host immune response. 

(2) Lipid metabolism of the lung

The lung epithelial tissue is constantly exposed to particles, toxic chemicals, allergens and pathogens through the inhaled air. In this regard the barrier function and immune system of the lung is of vital importance for human health. For the respiratory physiology the production of surfactant represents a special link to cellular lipid metabolism. In the alveolar tissue, type II pneumocytes secret surfactant composed of glycerophospholipids and proteins as vesicles via exocytosis. Type I pneumocytes are covering about 90 percent of the alveolar interface, which require a specific membrane composition to maintain their special thin shape and barrier function. In context of our research for the German Center for Lung Research (DZL) we study the perturbation of the lipid metabolism occurring in correlation to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In cooperation with the Clin. and Exp. Pathology and LungenClinic Grosshansdorf clinical well defined biopsies are characterized. We further perform studies on animal models for inflammatory and allergic processes on the airway epithelium together with Prof. Peter König (Uni Lübeck).

(3) Structure-function analysis of teichoic acids of S. pneumoniae
Teichoic acids of the human lung pathogen S. pneumoniae and some closely related bacteria (as S. oralis and S. mitis) possess an unusual complex structure and bear phosphorylcholine (P-Cho) as a substituent, which is uncommon compared to other bacteria. These P-Cho residues serve as anchors for surface-exposed choline-binding proteins (CBPs), which are involved in essential physiological functions of S. pneumoniae such as cell wall turnover and bacterial adhesion to host cells. Together with our collaborators (Prof. Dr. Sven Hammerschmidt, Dr. Thomas Kohler (Univ. Greifswald), Dr. Dalia Denapaite (Univ. Kaiserslautern), Prof. Dr. Waldemar Vollmer (Univ. Newcastle, England), Prof. Dr. Christian Marcus Pedersen (Univ. Kopenhagen, Danmark), Prof. Dr. Juan Hermoso (CSIC, Madrid, Spanien)) we especially focus on the molecular and structural analysis of S. pneumoniae teichoic acid biosynthesis and the implications of teichoic acid alterations on the bacterial pathophysiology.