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Portrait Nils Kröger

© TUD CMCB, M. Gonciarz

In the course of millions of years of biological evolution organisms have developed fascinating biomolecule-based capabilities that are unmatched by human technology. Remarkable examples are provided by the diatoms, a large group of eukaryotic microalgae that are responsible for ~20 % of the annual photosynthetic productivity on our planet. Diatoms produce cell walls, which are made of amorphous SiO2 (glass or silica) and exhibit species specific shapes with intricate nano- and micropatterns. The extraordinary ability of diatoms for silica morphogenesis is a paradigm for the genetically controlled "bottom-up" synthesis of functional inorganic materials with nanopatterned 3D architectures. Previously, we have identified through biochemical analyses unique proteins (silaffins, cingulins; see part A of figure ) and other unusual biomolecules (long-chain polyamines) that are involved in diatom biosilica formation. These studies are greatly aided by bioinformatics analyses of already completed and forthcoming diatom genome projects, as well as the development of genetic engineering tools for diatoms. We aim to structurally and functionally characterize the entire biomolecular machinery for silica biogenesis. Furthermore, we have already begun harnessing the emerging insight into this process to develop novel, envronmentally benign methods (see parts B and C in figure) for the synthesis of organic-inorganic hybrid materials with advanced functionalities for a wide variety of applications including bioenergy and biomedicine. Many diatoms have the amazing capabilities to reversibly adhere to vitrually any surface (hydrophilic or hydrophobic) under water. The molecules and mechanism that control this adhesion process are unknown, yet they could be highly useful glues for technology and in biomedicine. We aim to identify the chemical structure of diatom adhesives, elucidate the mechanism of diatom adhesion, and will attempt to mimic this process by synthetic analogs of diatom adhesion molecules.

Nils Kröger Research: Figure
Fig.: (A) Schematic chemical structure of a silica forming peptide from diatoms. The peptide carries unique posttranslational modifications that are essential for the silica forming activity. (B) Top: SEM image of organic microrings isolated from diatom biosilica that exhibit characteristic filament nanopatterns. Bottom: Confocal fluorescence microscopy images of three transgenic diatom cells that incorporate GFP-fusion proteins into specific regions of the biosilica. (C) Schematic of peptide-mediated Layer-by-Layer mineralization allowing for the stepwise surface deposition of conformal and continuous mineral layers with nanoscopic thickness. (D) Light microscopy image (after staining with the dye "Stains All") of an individual diatom cell (asterisk) attached to a submersed hydrophobic surface. The cell has moved across the surface leaving behind adhesive trails.

Future Projects and Goals

  • Molecular composition and self-assembly of silica forming organic templates in diatoms
  • Intracellular targeting of proteins to the silica deposition vesicles in diatoms
  • Pathway for biosynthesis of long-chain polyamines in diatoms
  • Structural and functional characterization of underwater adhesives from diatoms
  • Diatom Nanobiotechnology: Genetically engineered hybrid organic-inorganic materials with hierarchical 3D nano- and micropatterns and designed functonalities
  • Biomimetic and bioenabled syntheses of (bio)catalytic materials for bioenergy and biomedical applications

Methodological and Technical Expertise

Cell culture and microscopy:

  • Microalgae (Diatoms)
  • E. coli
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Scanning electron microscopy
  • Immunolocalization
  • GFP-tagging

Biochemistry:

  • Protein purification
  • HPLC
  • Peptide mapping
  • Amino acid analysis
  • Carbohydrate analysis
  • Mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)
  • Subcellular membrane fractionation
  • Enzyme assays
  • Western blot

Molecular Biology:

  • Recombinant DNA
  • Recombinant protein expression
  • RT-PCR
  • Southern blot
  • Genomics
  • Transcriptomics
  • Transgenic microalgae

Materials synthesis and characterization:

  • Peptide-induced mineral synthesis
  • Layer-by-layer mineralization
  • Enzyme immobilization
  • Inorganic nanoparticles
  • Dynamic light scattering
  • Zeta potential measurements

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Nils Kröger is currently offering PhD positions

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Open Project
  • The mechanisms of vesicle-mediated silica morphogenesis in diatoms
    Preferred Course of Study/Expertise of Candidate: protein biochemistry (strong), molecular genetics, molecular cell biology

CV

2012
Full Professor, B CUBE Center and Department of Chemistry, Dresden University of Technology (Germany)

2011
Associate Professor with tenure

2005–2011
Assistant Professor, School of Chemistry & Biochemistry and School of Materials Science & Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta (USA)

2001
Habilitation in Biochemistry, University Regensburg

1998–2004
Group Leader, Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology at University Regensburg

1998
DFG Research Fellow, School of Botany (Biological Electron Microscopy) at University Melbourne (Australia)

1996–1997
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology at University Regensburg

1995
Dr. rer. nat. (PhD) in Biochemistry at University of Regensburg

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Kröger Group at TUD B CUBE

Selected Publications

E. Kumari, S. Görlich, N. Poulsen, N. Kröger
Genetically Programmed Regioselective Immobilization of Enzymes in Biosilica Microparticles
Adv. Funct. Mater., 30, 2000442 (2020)

S. Görlich, D. Pawolski, I. Zlotnikov, N. Kröger
Control of biosilica morphology and mechanical performance by the conserved diatom gene Silicanin-1
Commun. Biol. 2, 245 (2019)

M. Lachnit, M.T. Buhmann, J. Klemm, N. Kröger, N. Poulsen
Identification of proteins in the adhesive trails of the diatom Amphora coffeaeformis
Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B., 374: 20190196 (2019)

A. Kotzsch, P. Gröger, D. Pawolski, P. H. H. Bomans, N. A. J. M. Sommerdijk, M. Schlierf, N. Kröger
Silicanin-1 is a conserved diatom membrane protein involved in silica biomineralization
BMC Biol. 15, 65 (2017)

B. Delalat, V. Sheppard, S. Rasi Ghaemi, S. Rao, C. Prestidge, G. McPhee, M.-L. Rogers, J. Donoghue, V. Pillay, T. Johns, N. Kröger, N. Voelcker
Targeted drug delivery using genetically engineered diatom biosilica
Nat. Commun. 6, 8791 (2015)

Contact

B CUBE – Center for Molecular Bioengineering
TU Dresden
Tatzberg 41
01307 Dresden
Germany