Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology

Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology

The mission of the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology is to understand the function, communication and interaction of microorganisms with their environment, to describe them with the aid of mathematical models and to modify them in a targeted manner using synthetic-biological approaches. What processes underlie their enormously diverse metabolic performances in the global biogeochemical cycles? What relevant natural products do they form? How are they able to adapt to environmental changes? What mechanisms underlie the cell cycle and cell polarity of microbial organisms? How do microbes interact with each other and with other organisms such as plants and animals? How can their metabolic properties be specifically modified and used to address current challenges, such as global warming, or the antibiotic crisis? The Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology addresses these and other questions through comprehensive basic research, from the atomic level to the ecosystem.


Karl-von-Frisch-Str. 10
35043 Marburg
Phone: +49 6421 178-0
Fax: +49 6421 178-999

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS on Principles of Microbial Life

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Natural compounds in organismal interactions


Department Biochemistry and Synthetic Metabolism


Research on bacteriophages reveals a previously unknown biological principle


Using a metabolic pathway, energy-rich resources can be produced via the power of electricity


Like Beads on a Chain

August 09, 2023

A mathematical model provides new insights into the distribution of genetic information during bacterial cell division


Researchers show how methane formed in early Earth's aquatic environments and is still released today


How a single regulatory protein acts as a multi-tool of bacterial cell wall remodeling

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Metabolism 2.0

MaxPlanckResearch 1/2017 Environoment & Climate

Over 50 million genes and 40,000 proteins: combing through international databases for likely candidates, Tobias Erb and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg were faced with an overwhelming choice. In the end, the scientists picked out just 17 enzymes for the first synthetic metabolic pathway that is able to convert carbon dioxide into other organic molecules. Now they have to show that the cycle they sketched out on the drawing board also works in living cells.

PhD thesis in the field of microbial natural product research

Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg September 07, 2023

Back to the future of photosynthesis

2022 Hochberg, Georg

Evolutionary Biology Genetics Microbiology

The central biocatalyst in photosynthesis, Rubisco, is the most abundant enzyme on earth. But how did Rubisco evolve, and how did it adapt to environmental changes during Earth’s history? By reconstructing billion-year-old enzymes, our team has deciphered one of the key adaptations of early photosynthesis. Our results not only provide insights into the evolution of modern photosynthesis but also offer new synthetic impulses for improving it.


Ustilago maydis is one of numerous fungal pathogens that destroy large quantities of crops worldwide each year. Its highly specific interaction with the host plant maize is a valuable model system for studying molecular details of fungal-plant interactions. We found a fungal complex of seven proteins forming a structure with an essential role in disease development. Our findings potentially a fungal complex of seven proteins forming a structure with an essential role in disease development. Our findings potentially open up novel approaches to plant protection.


Light-driven protein injection

2020 Diepold, Andreas


Bacteria such as Salmonella or Yersinia are equipped with tiny "injection needles" for shooting proteins into their host cells. For years, researchers have thought of using bacterial injection devices to introduce proteins into eukaryotic cells. We now succeeded in controlling the injection system optogenetically by using light as a trigger, enabling its targeted utilization in biotechnological or medical applications.


Adding a new dimension to the global carbon cycle

2019 Schada von Borzyskowski, Lennart; Erb, Tobias J.

Ecology Microbiology

Glycolic acid is a direct by-product of photosynthesis and one of the most important compounds in the carbon cycle of the oceans. Though marine bacteria convert some of its carbon back into carbon dioxide, the exact metabolic pathways remained largely unknown. We rediscovered a long forgotten pathway, the BHA cycle. This cycle was overlooked so far, but actually represents the major pathway for glycolic acid degradation in ubiquitous marine Proteobacteria. Its detailed and multidisciplinary elucidation enables reassessment of the global carbon dioxide balance.


Insights into the inner life of living cells

2018 Endesfelder, Ulrike


Single-molecule localization microscopy offers unprecedented insights into living cells. In practice, however, many difficulties persist. By improving an important group of fluorophores, we were able to significantly reduce the damage the method causes in the imaged cells and to establish a novel, aberration-free multi-color strategy. This enables, among other things, the four-dimensional reconstruction of multi-protein-complexes such as the kinetochore in Schizosaccharomyces pombe.

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