Cluster of Excellence –
University of Freiburg

Synthetic Biology of Signalling Processes

Jun. Prof. Dr. Winfried Römer

My research team studies the initial steps of the cellular uptake of human pathogens (bacteria, viruses) and pathogenic products (toxins) in non-phagocytic cells by using a highly interdisciplinary research approach at the interface of biology, medicine, physics and chemistry.

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Based on novel concepts that we have established recently for some bacterial toxins and animal viruses, we hypothesize that specific interactions of carbohydrate-binding proteins (called lectins) with distinct glycosphingolipids exposed at the host cell surface lead to formation of plasma membrane invaginations, activation and recruitment of signaling molecules, cytoskeleton remodeling and cellular uptake of the pathogen.

We expect to be able to identify microbial and host cell key factors of pathogenic uptake and small molecule inhibitors towards them by applying biochemical, screening and OMICS approaches. For in vitro reconstitution of cellular processes, we develop a unique platform for membrane nanoscopy based on natural and synthetic membrane systems of different complexity in combination with super-resolution fluorescence and atomic force microscopy.

Member of the Spemann Graduate School for Biology and Medicine (SGBM) and the International Max Planck Research School for Molecular and Cellular and the Biology (IMPRS-MCB) and the International Research Training Group "Soft Matter Science": Concepts for the design of functional materials.