ERC: Reconstructing the Coordinated Self-Assembly of a Bacterial Nanomachine (BacNanoMachine)


Life has evolved diverse protein machines and bacteria provide many fascinating examples. Despite being unicellular organisms of relatively small size, bacteria produce sophisticated nanomachines with a high degree of self-organization. The motility organelle of bacteria, the flagellum, is a prime example of complex bacterial nanomachines. Flagella are by far the most prominent extracellular structures known in bacteria and made through self-assembly of several dozen different kinds of proteins and thus represent an ideal model system to study sub-cellular compartmentalization and self-organization. The flagellum can function as a macromolecular motility machine only if its many building blocks assemble in a coordinated manner.
However, previous studies have focused on phenotypic and genetic analyses, or the characterization of isolated sub-components. Crucially, how bacteria orchestrate the many different cellular processes in time and space in order to construct a functional motility organelle remains enigmatic. The present proposal constitutes a comprehensive research program with the aim to obtain a holistic understanding of the underlying principles that allow bacteria to control and coordinate the simultaneous self-assembly processes of several multi-component nanomachines within a single cell.
Towards this goal, we will combine for the first time the visualization of the dynamic self-assembly of individual flagella with quantitative single-cell gene expression analyses, re-engineering of the genetic network and biophysical modelling in order to develop a biophysical model of flagella self-assembly. This novel, integrative approach will allow us to move beyond the classical, descriptive characterization of protein complexes towards an engineering-type understanding of the extraordinarily robust and coordinated assembly of a multi-component molecular machine.

Principal Investigators
Erhardt, Marc Prof. Dr. (Details) (Bacterial Physiology)

Duration of Project
Start date: 10/2020
End date: 09/2025

Last updated on 2021-25-08 at 14:38