Eva Sonnenschein Junior Research Group

My research focusses on the biodiscovery and utilisation of marine microorganisms as i) producers of bioactive molecules and ii) degraders of anthropogenic pollutants and polymers. To find these bioactivities, I am inspired by ecology and evolution as biomolecules are the core of the chemical communication between microorganisms and are required for them to survive and thrive. I characterize a biomolecule from its biosynthetic genes to its environmental effect using

  • Physiological and ecological studies on marine bacteria and microalgae
  • Bioactivity-guided isolation procedures for bacteria
  • Bioactivity assays e.g. for antimicrobial activities and polymer degradation
  • Genome sequencing, analysis, and annotation as well as comparative (phylo)genomics
  • Bioinformatics pipelines and tools including QIIME2 or antiSMASH
  • Phenotyping on RNA and protein level
  • Mutational analysis and heterologous gene expression
  • Protein biochemistry, including purification, activity assays and sequence-based analysis
  • In collaboration with the chemists at DTU Bioengineering: small molecule chemistry

Current projects

The biotechnological potential of bacteria-microalgae interactions
Microalgae serve as activity hotspots in the aquatic environment. Bacteria compete for the increased nutrient concentrations surrounding the algal cell and can control algal growth using secondary metabolites. We apply cultivation-dependent (e.g. bioactivity-guided isolation) and sequencing-based techniques (e.g. comparative genomics) on the algal microbiome to screen for bioactive bacteria and their genetic biotechnological potential. For example, we will identify bacteria and their mechanisms that can specifically inhibit toxic microalgae. Blooms of toxic microalgae result in massive killing of fish and contaminate shellfish making it not only harmful to the consumer, but also cause drastic economic loss to the rapidly growing aquaculture industry. Thus, utilizing the ecological basis of bacteria-microalgae interactions, we will produce novel bioactivities for drug discovery and biotech applications.

Microbial degradation of plastic

Bottle with plastic debrisPlastic is omnipresent in our environment, however, its fate and impact remain unclear. Since microorganisms have evolved to degrade many other anthropogenic pollutants and a few plastic-degrading enzymes have recently been identified, we hypothesize that microorganisms adapt to use plastic as nutrient source. We utilize and develop cultivation– and sequence–based techniques to isolate putative plastic- and pollutant-degrading enzymes and trace their environmental occurrence. Thereby, we aim to elucidate microbial adaptation to novel anthropogenic pollutants and provide novel building blocks for future bioremediation and biotech applications.

Contact

Eva Sonnenschein
Senior Researcher
DTU Bioengineering
+45 45 25 25 18