Dr. Antonis Chatzinotas
Dr. Antonis Chatzinotas
Microbial Systems Ecology
Department of Environmental Microbiology
for Environmental Research - UFZ
04318 Leipzig, Germany
Phone: +49 341 235 1324
Fax: +49 341 235 2247
CV / Scientific Career
Diploma in Biology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany
Research visit to the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
PhD, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich (ETHZ), Switzerland
Post-Doc at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland
Senior Research Scientist at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Department for Environmental Microbiology
Group Leader Microbial Systems Ecology
I am interested in understanding the diversity, functioning and ecosystem processes of microbial communities in natural and engineered ecosystems (e.g. lakes, rivers, aquifers, soils, wastewater treatment plants). Analysis of environmental microbial communities (bacteria, fungi, protists, phage) relies both on cultivation-dependent and -independent approaches.
My research addresses amongst others
(i) the response of microbial communities and functions to environmental change and human activities,
(ii) the interactions within and between different trophic levels (bacteria, eukaryotic (micro)organisms, phages),
(iii) the evaluation of ecological theories in microbial ecology and
(iv) the application of bioreporter bacteria in applied environmental microbiology.
The aim of these studies is not only to increase our knowledge regarding the phylogenetic and functional diversity of microorganisms, but also to better understand the role of interactions between different trophic levels (bacteria, protists, phages, fungi and plants) for ecosystem functioning under changing environmental conditions.
Microbial diversity and functioning. We are studying how environmental parameters and human activities affect microbial communities, their functions and distribution in ecosystems. These impacts include e.g. industrial pollution, land use gradients or extrem weather events. Analysis of microbial communities is mainly based on cultivation-independent methods including high throughput sequencing and omics-approaches (454, Illumina), FISH, qPCR, fingerprinting techniques and comparative sequence analysis, but requires in some cases also alternative cultivation approaches. Functional bacterial groups involved e.g. in the degradation of pollutants were identified applying 13C-labelled substrates and stable isotope probing (SIP). A recent, new focus is the role of the flexible gene pool (e.g. plasmids) for the adaptation of aquatic bacteria to changing environmental condition (antibiotic resistance genes or genes involved in BTEX degradation).
Interactions within and between different trophic levels. Understanding the interactions within the same and between different trophic levels is required for a full comprehension of of microbial communities and processes, particularly in response to changes in their abiotic and biotic environment. We are for instance studying the role of micropredators (i.e. predatory bacteria, protists, phages) for an efficient removal of bacterial pathogens in WWTP. Trophic interactions in the degradation of macromolecules (cellulose, chitin) are addressed using stable isotope based approaches such as SIP. With respect to plant-microbe interactions, we are currently investigating the cascading effect of rhizophere microbial interactions on plants using plant metabolite analysis. Phage ecology and (meta)genomics represent a new important aspect; first projects focus on specific phage-bacteria interactions in constructed wetlands and on phage/virus diversity in subsurface and freshwater systems.
Ecological theories. Next to working on field sites, I am very interested in using (often very simple) microbial
model systems to address key principles in ecological theories. Since
microorganisms are the key players in many ecosystems, it is necessary to bridge the gap between microbial ecology and general
ecology. Such model
systems enable a high degree of replication and experimental control and
are helpful to test the applicability of ecological concepts and theories derived from experiments with higher organisms. We further
want to apply ecological concepts to improve biotechnological
applications using microbes.
Bioreporter bacteria. A small part of my research deals with the optimization and application of bacterial bioreporter. We have optimized and applied arsenic biosensors for field tests. Besides the analysis of drinking water, we succeeded in developing a protocol for visualizing the distribution of arsenic in the rhizosphere.