Tomas Alarcon Schumacher What Mechanisms Underlie the Interaction Between a Virus and its Host During an Infection?
Max Planck Institute for Marine MicrobiologyBremen
At the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPIMM), we are investigating microorganisms in the sea and other waters. What role do they play, what are their characteristics and how great is their biodiversity? What is the contribution of microorganisms to the global cycles of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and iron? What does this mean for our environment and our climate? These and many other questions will be answered by researchers from around the world, engineers, technicians and numerous others at the MPIMM. Their fields of expertise range from microbiology to microsensors, geochemistry to genome analysis and molecular ecology to modelling.
The MPIMM was founded in 1992 and is part of the Max Planck Society (MPG). Since 2002, the MPIMM has been running the International Max Planck Research School of Marine Microbiology (MarMic), a program for highly qualified master students and graduates of our institute and the Bremen Research Alliance partner Bremen University, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and Jacobs University.
Max Planck Research Group Archaeal Virology
The Archaeal Virology group investigates membrane vesicle formation in Archaea and the formation of plasmid vesicles and studies the interactions between membrane vesicles and viruses.
Viruses that infect members of the third domain of life, the archaea, were shown to be very distinct from viruses infecting bacteria and eukaryotes. Their discovery has opened up a new fascinating world of virology. Archaea were initially thought to inhabit only extreme environments such as hot springs, hydrothermal vents or very salty lakes (so-called hypersaline environments) and the majority of the archaeal viruses isolated to date come from such environments. However, we know today that archaea and their viruses also play a very significant role in moderate environments such as the ocean, but no archaeal viruses have been isolated from marine environments so far.
One major research focus of the new group will be the relationship of viruses with membrane vesicles. During her research of hypersaline Antarctic lakes, Erdmann discovered a new virus-like element, the so-called plasmid vesicles (PVs). These allow us to draw conclusions about how viruses might have evolved. The evolution of virus particles appears to be closely related to membrane vesicles, which are produced by all living cells and serve a range of crucial functions in cellular communication and interactions with the environment, including protection against viral infection.
Traditionally, viruses have been viewed as little more than killing machines. In this video, TOMÁS ALARCÓN SCHUMACHER shows how certain viral infections can have a positive effect on their hosts’ evolutionary trajectories. Focusing on chronic infections in archaeal bacteria, Schumacher employs techniques including quantitative PCR, RNA sequencing and proteomics. Among his more striking findings are that the virus can completely reshape the metabolism of the host and that the outcome of an infection is heavily dependent on interaction between the infecting virus and viral like sequences already present in the host. Greater understanding of the mechanisms at work here could help us to look for new solutions for viral diseases through viral-viral interaction based therapies.
LT Video Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.21036/LTPUB10951
A Plasmid from an Antarctic Haloarchaeon Uses Specialized Membrane Vesicles to Disseminate and Infect Plasmid-Free Cells
- Susanne Erdmann, Bernhard Tschitschko, Ling Zhong, Mark J. Raftery and Ricardo Cavicchioli
- Nature Microbiology
- Published in 2017