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Talk by Thomas Gutsmann

Title: "Microbes and humans: a battle between membranes and pores"
Occasion: Joint CellNanOs and SFB Special Seminar
Host: Katia Cosentino
Start: 28.02.2023 - 16:15
Location: CellNanOs 38/201

About the speaker: Thomas Gutsmann conducts research in the Department of Biophysics at the Leibniz Center for Medicine and Biosciences in Borstel.

Abstract of the talk: Between microbes and humans there is a permanent battle in which pore-forming molecules play a decisive role. On the one hand microbes attack other microbes, and the cytoplasmic or the phagosome membrane of mammal cells by pore forming proteins or peptides. On the other hand mammals use pore-forming peptides of the innate immune system, the so called Host Defense Peptides (HDP) or Antimicrobial Peptides (AMP), to kill microbes.

All these membrane active peptides and proteins follow a general interaction pathway: binding, intercalation, aggregation, modification of membrane properties, pore formation, and disruption of membranes. However, the specificity to lipid composition, pH, ions, transmembrane potential and other factors is crucial for the respective function. Our goal is to elucidate the molecular interaction mechanisms in order to identify targets to prevent exit of microbes and to kill them.

Using various membrane reconstitution systems (liposomes, planar bilayers, solid-supported bilayers and multilayers) composed of phospholipids and bacterial glycolipids we analyzed the basic structure of these membranes, e.g. supramolecular organization of the lipids, phase separation and orientation of fatty acids, and the influence of specific membrane active peptides and proteins.