What is morphogenesis in architecture

Architecture and morphogenesis of biofilms

Research topic

Using the model system of bacterial biofilms, the central question is how genes shape space in the interplay with environmental conditions, i.e. how they control the supracellular architecture and morphogenesis of these microbial communities, which behave like tissue. Biological 'building materials' (extracellular amyloid fibers and cellulose), the cellular production of which is genetically controlled depending on the position of the cells in the biofilm, create a complex supracellular architecture and determine physical parameters such as cohesion and elasticity, a three-dimensional one that is visible to the naked eye Allow the biofilm to unfold in a variety of patterns. Such spatial shifts lead to changed environmental conditions for large parts of the biofilm, which in turn affects the genome-wide gene expression of the affected cells and thus leads to secondary morphogenetic processes.

The research covers the entire spectrum from molecules to visible morphology. While microbiological research has long focused on the processes in individual bacterial cells, this is the first time that bacterial communities consisting of billions of cells are being used as an ideal model system for researching fundamental macroscopic-morphogenetic processes. In addition to the elucidation of the underlying molecular signal transduction pathways and regulatory networks, questions about how to deal with complex images of morphological form - both on a microscopic as well as a visible macroscopic level - arise as a phenotype of molecular genetic investigations. In addition, it is investigated what role bacterial multicellular associations have played in the history of microbiology - after a first linguistically powerful but image-free description by Ferdinand Cohn in 1877.

Goal setting

The project pursues the strategy of creating an integrative connection between experimental, historical-analytical and creative approaches. A primary goal is to elucidate the molecular regulatory processes that underlie the structure of the supracellular architecture and the morphogenesis of bacterial biofilms. Here, principles of molecular biology are to be merged with the approaches of morphological research and image sciences. The production and analysis of images that represent primary data or summarizing models or that can also have a scientific communicative function should be continuously and critically scrutinized.


1. Experimental research project on the genetic basis of complex visible forms in bacterial biofilm architecture and morphogenesis:

Macrocolony biofilms of Escherichia coli, a human intestinal bacterium that occurs in harmless as well as pathogenic variants, serve as a model system. In particular, the role of the signaling molecule c-di-GMP in the development of the supracellular architecture and biofilm morphogenesis is examined (see also http://www.biologie.hu-berlin.de/de/gruppenseiten/mikrobiologie/hengge/r. ..).

2. Complex morphological images as primary data and phenotype in genetic examinations:

Such images of bacterial biofilms cannot - as is usual in quantitative-molecular biosciences - be reduced to numbers or formulas, i.e. ‘objectified. However, previous studies indicate that they can be deconstructed into recognizable and namable basic elements, the presence of which in certain spatial patterns and proportions allow conclusions to be drawn about the underlying cellular and molecular components and processes in certain regions of the biofilms - this visual analysis should therefore be the phenotypic Be the basis of powerful molecular genetics of morphological form.

3. Historical-analytical project on the morphology of microbial communities:

Starting from the description of the isolation of the bacterium Bacillus subtilis by Ferdinand Cohn in 1877 (in which he de facto provided the first description of a biofilm), the history of the reception of the phenomenon described by Cohn will be processed. The question of whether the theoretical foundations of morphological research, which was a leading science in biology until the 1930s / 1940s, but was then replaced by molecular biology as such, is also investigated for today's research into molecular causes macroscopic biofilm morphogenesis can be harnessed.

4. Science communication at the interface between science and art:

Book and exhibition projects are planned to introduce the public to the world of bacteria and our microbiome, as well as an "artist-in-residence" project in the Hengge laboratory. In addition, the Science & Theater project, which has been successful since 2010, is being carried out in collaboration with the English Theater Berlin | International Performing Arts Center continued (http: //www.biologie.hu-berlin.de/de/gruppenseiten/mikrobiologie/hengge/s ...).

Securing results

The work of the project should be scientifically documented through (interdisciplinary) specialist publications and presented to the public through the science communication projects described above.