Exploring metabolic relationships in symbioses

International symposium within the framework of the EU project SymbNET on microbiome metabolomics at Kiel University

On 14 and 15 November, the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1182 “Origin and Function of Metaorganisms” hosted an international symposium at Kiel University as part of the European Union-funded cooperation project “SymbNET – Genomics and Metabolomics in a Host-Microbe Symbiosis Network”: Around 50 researchers from the partner institutions Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), University of Lausanne, Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica António Xavier (ITQB NOVA) and Kiel University came together in Kiel to discuss the analysis of metabolic relationships within the microbiome. The symposium was dedicated to microbiome metabolomics and thus focused on understanding the metabolic interactions and dependencies between multicellular host organisms like for example humans and their symbiotic microorganisms. The analysis of the biochemical processes involved is a central aspect in deciphering the functional relationships between hosts and microorganisms.

With Professor Sean Gibbons from the Institute of Systems Biology in Seattle, USA, the organising team invited a particularly distinguished scientist in this field of research as plenary speaker. Gibbons investigates, among other things, how microbial communities in the gut change and adapt over the lifespan of humans. One of his research approaches, for example, aims to model the entire metabolic processes of the microbial community in the human gut across different developmental stages in order to make more precise statements about the functional effects for the host organism.

“Sean Gibbons’ research is particularly relevant to our Collaborative Research Center,” emphasises Professor Philip Rosenstiel, one of the organisers of the meeting. “The quantification and functional analysis of symbiotic metabolic relationships will play an increasingly important role in microbiome research in the future,” Rosenstiel continues. Professor Hinrich Schulenburg, vice-speaker of the CRC 1182 and the second organiser of the conference, adds: “Overall, our conference provides important impulses for the future direction of research in exchange with our European project partners, also within our metaorganism research center at Kiel University”.

Impacts of microbiome metabolomics
During the event, the participants presented ten lectures on the importance of analysing metabolic processes within the microbiome in a biological and medical context. Among other things, they shed light on the role of these metabolic processes for immune defence, how metabolism changes during the maturation of the infant microbiome or how the exchange of metabolites between microorganisms and hosts affects the development of human diseases. Overall, these and other research approaches in microbiome metabolomics are of fundamental importance for understanding the effects of microorganisms on the development, physiology and evolution of their host organisms.

European cooperation in symbiosis research
The current Kiel conference is one of numerous activities with which the European cooperation project SymbNET promotes exchange between scientists from three European countries and five partner institutions in research into symbiotic relationships between host organisms and microorganisms. The main objectives of the network, which started in 2021, are the promotion of young researchers through the support of reciprocal collaborations and guest stays and the development of novel research infrastructures. The European Union is supporting the project as part of the Horizon 2020 programme, and Kiel University is contributing to this international network work with its Collaborative Research Center 1182.

About SymbNET:
SymbNET is a European network for research into host-microbe symbioses funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. It advances the understanding of symbiotic interactions of host organisms and microrganisms as an important research focus in basic biology and health sciences. SymbNET brings together a consortium of leading scientists in the field with a broad range of expertise, technological knowledge, scientific questions and approaches in the field of host-microbe symbiosis. SymbNET promotes knowledge transfer and collaboration through researcher and collaborator exchange programmes, joint projects, promotion of the use of new technologies, organisation of scientific meetings, workshops, PhD summer schools and a European meeting on host-microbe symbiosis. The project, coordinated by FCG-IGC (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Portugal), brings together another local partner ITQB NOVA (Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica, Portugal) and the European research institutions EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Germany), UNIL (Université de Lausanne, Switzerland)and Kiel University.

Images are available for download:
Guest speaker Professor Sean Gibbons from Seattle presented his work on modelling the entire metabolic processes of the microbial community in the human gut at the Kiel conference.
© Christian Urban, Kiel University

Around 50 researchers from the SymbNET consortium gathered in Kiel to discuss the analysis of metabolic relationships within the microbiome.
© Christian Urban, Kiel University

Prof. Hinrich Schulenburg
Vice-Spokesperson CRC 1182
„Origin and Function of Metaorganisms“, Kiel University
Phone: +49 (0) 431-880-4141
Email: hschulenburg@zoologie.uni-kiel.de

More information:
SymbNET, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras

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