Research for the Environment

Analysis of the influence of environmental compounds on the immune system

Environmental compunds like benzo[a]pyrene and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are known to increase the risk of having allergic reactions. To elucidate the mechanism on how environmental compunds influence human health, in specific lung epithelial cells (as first site of contact) and immune cells (as place of action for an allergic reaction) we examine the cells of interes on transcriptome and proteome level.

high resolution mass spectrometry for qualitative and quantitative proteome analysis

Volatile organic compounds are the most relevant source of contaminants in the indoor environment and it is reported that in extreme cases they can cause the „sick building syndrome”. Since understanding the mode of action is poor and the major exposure happens via the gas phase we focus on the molecular consequences of exposure to VOCs on lung epithelial cells. For unravelling cellular effects we use concepts developed in systems biology and cooperate closely with the Department of Environmental Immunology.

Effects of biogen indoor polutants on the immune system

Beside the anthropogenic substances also natural chemicals and organisms like moulds are abundant indoors. Indoor moulds are a threat to human health by production of mycotoxins and due to their allergenic potential. In an earlier study in cooperation with the former Department of Exposure and Epidemiology we identified allergens from spores from the most common indoor mould Aspergillus versicolor . These allergens will be used to develop an assay for diagnosis of sensitisation against indoor moulds. Furthermore, new techniques for molecular identification of fungal species (pathogenic skin and nail fungi) are under development.

Microbial Ecology and Biodegradation

The microbial proteome acts as a direct linkage between the genome and metabolome. Functional metaproteomic analyses enable the elucidation of the structure and function of microbial communities. A major research interest is the analysis of anaerobic hydrocarbon degrading communities.