Microbial Cell Biology

Heisenberg Professorship -ready, set, go!


We are happy to announce that by December 2021 Kai has been awarded a Heisenberg Professorship by the DFG!

See press release from the Georg-August-University Göttingen


Unfolded Protein Response in Fungal-Plant Communication


Our lab investigates how communication between pathogenic fungi and their plant hosts is achieved. Previous studies revealed an intricate regulatory network between highly conserved signaling pathways and development- and lifestyle-specific regulators, leading to mutual modulation and adaptation of cellular signaling to changing environments. Of central interest is the unfolded protein response (UPR), which serves as a regulatory hub and dominant regulator of fungal virulence.

Specific research interests are:

Pathogenic development of Ustilago maydis
Modulation of the UPR for communication in fungal biotrophy
Function and regulation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) pathway
UPR-MAPK interactions and quantitative control of virulence potential


Symposium of the VAAM Special Group Biology and Biotechnology of Fungi


The 13th international Symposium of the VAAM Special Group of the Biology and Biotechnology of Fungi took place from September 19th-21st, 2019 in Göttingen with 140 participants. It was organized by Gerhard Braus, Kai Heimel and Stefanie Pöggeler (Institute for Microbiology and Genetics, Göttingen). Scientists from twelve different countries and 21 locations in Germany participated in the meeting. The MBF symposium takes place biennially at different locations in Germany and aims to support young scientists by providing them a platform to present their research to an audience that includes experts in the field. For the first time the conference was organized together with the GenAG “Fungal Genetics” of the German Genetics Society. In addition to the eight presentations of invited international plenary speakers, 22 speakers were selected based on 110 submitted abstracts. The generous support by the GfG enabled six posters to be awarded with prizes. Topics of the conference were plant and human pathogenic fungi, fungal cell biology, multicellular development of fungi, and signal transduction.

The first invited speaker was Bart Thomma (Wageningen University, NL), who provided insights into species-specific genome evolution of the plant pathogen, Verticillium. Gustavo Goldman (São Paulo, Brazil) reported on gene regulation through catabolite repression in Aspergillus nidulans. Neil Gow (University of Exeter, GB) demonstrated how the complex and dynamically changing cell wall of human pathogenic fungi challenges the human immune system. Xiaorong Lin (University of Georgia, USA) outlined mechanisms, including the formation of large polyploid cells, used by the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans to protect itself against the host immune system. Gregory Jedd (Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, Singapore) described the establishment of cell polarity in the tips of fungal hyphae through interactions of scaffold proteins. In addition, during his dinner talk, Ulrich Kück (Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany) looked retrospectively at his years of enormous experience in fungal research. Raymond John St. Leger (University of Maryland, USA) introduced new strategies for defeating Malaria and plagues caused by locusts using insect-pathogenic fungi that express toxins against arthropods. Finally, Luis F. Larrondo (Universidad Catolica de Chile, Chile) vividly demonstrated the plasticity of the circadian rhythm of Neurospora crassa and the discovery of positive regulators of the circadian clock.