Felix Wesener and Britta Tietjen, in cooperation with Matthias Rillig
Microbes are subject to stressors of different nature and intensity and thus have developed different responses to withstand these various stress factors. One common resistance mechanism is the development of anticipatory stress responses triggered by mild stressors, leading to higher resistance towards stronger environmental stress. This approach, called priming, has not yet been fully understood and especially the effect of priming onto diverse communities of different microbial organisms has not been thoroughly researched; priming is known to not only change the dynamics of microorganisms and their environment but to also greatly affect the interactions between species of a community by, for example, lowering or raising the fitness of a particular species and thus changing the conditions of competition. This acquired stress resistance is a significant factor influencing the composition and the dynamics of a community and should therefore be examined in detail.
As part of the Collaborative Research Centre 973: ‘Priming and Memory of Organismic Responses to Stress’, this project will focus on the simulation and modelling of the dynamics within microbial communities of different species compositions under the influence of heat stress. To carry on the research from single populations to communities of microorganisms, in the course of the project, not only an analysis of systems of different complexity - a different number of contributing species - will be performed but also different families will be investigated, starting with saprobic fungi.
This way, we hope to gain insight of the influence of stress onto the dynamics and composition of microbial communities by increasing the knowledge of the complicated interactions within those communities; this might contribute to the growth of the understanding of different ecosystems and their functions. Also, deepening the understanding of microbial communities will increase their applicability for agricultural, ecological or medical purposes. If the different effects of priming onto the community composition can be understood, different communities can be modulated by applying different stressors.