Göttingen Graduate School for Neurosciences, Biophysics, and Molecular Biosciences

Commichau, Fabian, Dr.

Group leader: Institute of Microbiology and Genetics, Department of General Microbiology

  • Since 2011 Group leader at the Department of General Microbiology, University of Göttingen, Germany
  • 2009-2011 Scientist, DSM Nutritional Products Ltd, Grenzach-Wyhlen & Kaiseraugst, Germany & Switzerland
  • 2008-2009 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Focal Area Infection Biology, Biozentrum, University of Basel, Switzerland
  • 2006-2008 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of General Microbiology, University of Göttingen, Germany
  • 2006 PhD in Microbiology (Dr. rer. nat.), Department of General Microbiology, University of Göttingen, Germany
  • 2003 Diploma in Biology, Institute for Biology IV (Microbiology), Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Germany

Major Research Interests
Glutamate is the most abundant metabolite that delivers the majority of nitrogen for synthesis of vital building blocks in any living cell. The Gram-positive bacterium Bacillus subtilis synthesizes glutamate by the combined action of the glutamine synthetase and the glutamate synthase while the glutamate dehydrogenase strictly degrades glutamate. As the glutamate synthesizing and degrading reactions form a crucial link between carbon and nitrogen metabolism, this metabolic intersection is tightly controlled. We have observed that the bacteria respond to perturbation of glutamate homoeostasis by the rapid accumulation of suppressor mutations. The specific and fast activation and inactivation of genes involved in glutamate metabolism strongly resembles the Lamarckian mode of evolution. We want to address the question how the bacteria sense the need to change their genetic make-up to maintain glutamate homoeostasis.
We are also interested in the control of the transcription factor PrfA in Listeria monocytogenes. L. monocytogenes is a Gram-positive bacterium that lives usually in the soil. However, ingested by contaminated food, the bacterium may cause gastroenteritis and abortions in pregnant women with a high mortality rate. Upon ingestion of the bacteria by humans the transcription factor PrfA directly activates the expression of about 10 genes encoding the major virulence factors. There is strong indication that signals derived from carbon metabolism are involved in the process. Thus, the carbon source provides a cue for the control of PrfA activity. However, the underlying molecular mechanism is yet unclear. We want to find an answer to the long-standing open question how PrfA activity is regulated by the available carbon source.

Homepage Department/Research Group


Selected Recent Publications

  • Gunka K, Commichau FM. (2012) Control of glutamate homeostasis in Bacillus subtilis: a complex interplay between ammonium assimilation, glutamate biosynthesis and degradation. Mol Microbiol. 85:213-24.
  • Gunka K, Tholen S, Gerwig J, Herzberg C, Stülke J, Commichau FM. (2012) A high-frequency mutation in Bacillus subtilis: requirements for the decryptification of the gudB glutamate dehydrogenase gene. J Bacteriol. 2012 194:1036-44.
  • Commichau FM, Rothe FM, Herzberg C, Wagner E, Hellwig D, Lehnik-Habrink M, Hammer E, Völker U, Stülke J. (2009) Novel activities of glycolytic enzymes in Bacillus subtilis: interactions with essential proteins involved in mRNA processing. Mol Cell Proteomics. 8:1350-60.
  • Herzberg C, Weidinger LA, Dörrbecker B, Hübner S, Stülke J, Commichau FM. (2007) SPINE: a method for the rapid detection and analysis of protein-protein interactions in vivo. Proteomics. 7:4032-5.
  • Commichau FM, Herzberg C, Tripal P, Valerius O, Stülke J. (2007) A regulatory protein-protein interaction governs glutamate biosynthesis in Bacillus subtilis: the glutamate dehydrogenase RocG moonlights in controlling the transcription factor GltC. Mol Microbiol. 65:642-54.