I came to Lund 2004 after 5 years as Associate Professor at Uppsala University. Before that, I had done two postdoc projects; 1994-1996 at Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas in Madrid where I worked on bacterial cell division, and 1996-1998 at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK, working on Streptomyces developmental biology.
The main focus of my research is on cell and developmental biology of bacteria. For a researcher armed with the powerful tools of genetics and molecular biology, the simple bacterial cells provide great experimental systems for investigating fundamental functions of a living cell. We are also applying advanced microscopy, which in recent years has revolutionized the understanding of prokaryotic cells and visualized the remarkable degree of three-dimensional organization, complexity, and beauty of these deceivingly simple organisms.
The wider question that we want to understand is how molecules of a cell govern such essential and complex functions like cell division, cell polarity, determination of cell shape, and cell differentiation. Processes like these have evolved from common ancestors of both eukaryotes and prokaryotes, and it becomes increasingly clear that the bacterial versions of these basic cell functions use similar ancestral molecules, for example cytoskeletal proteins, as those used in animal and plant cells. The model organisms that we use, Gram-positive bacteria of the genus Streptomyces, provide unique possibilities to study some of these fundamental functions, and show several intriguing parallels to the corresponding processes in eukaryotic cells.
Because of the alarming and rising problems with antibiotic resistance among bacterial pathogens, there is an urgent need to rapidly develop new types of antibiotics and other anti-bacterial agents. The knowledge about essential cell functions in bacteria and the experimental systems that we develop can be used to find new targets for antibiotics and to screen for molecules that can work as antibiotics. One of our projects aims at investigating bacterial cell division as an antibiotic target.
Finally, streptomycetes are nature’s most competent chemists and produce an enormous range of secondary metabolites, many of which are antibiotics. Two thirds of all known antibiotics come from streptomycetes and their relatives within the phylum Actinobacteria, and about half of the clinically used antibiotics are from the genus Streptomyces. Thus, these organisms are of a huge industrial and medical importance, and an improved understanding of their biology, growth habits, regulatory mechanisms, and cell differentiation will greatly facilitate the exploration of streptomycetes in various industrial and biotechnological applications.