Department of Ecogenetics and Systems Biology - Division of Archaea Biology and Ecogenomics

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We belong to the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Vienna and are part of the Vienna Ecology Centre. Our department has a "dependance" at the Center of Geobiology at University of Bergen, Norway.
Since April 1, 2013 we are the Archaea Biology and Ecogenomics Division of the Department of Ecogenomics and Systems Biology.


Beside Bacteria, a second evolutionary lineage of microorganisms arose about 3.5 billion years ago on this planet: the Archaea. They thrive in extreme environments reminiscient of conditions on the early Earth, but are also of global ecological importance in moderate common place environments.
It is the main goal of this Department to shed light on fundamental distinctions between archaea and bacteria, to understand their different roles in both ecological and evolutionary processes. We study specifically:
- molecular adaptations and virus defense of hyperthermophilic model organisms
- genome content, expression patterns, physiology and ecology of moderate ammonia oxidizing archaea as well as
- symbioses of microorganisms with viruses and eukaryotes.
We thus attempt to improve the understanding of the role of microorganisms, in particular of archaea, in global biogeochemical cycles and in early evolution.


Upcoming event: Let's Talk About Symbiosis Workshop

Ajoint seminar about symbiosis research in several departments of the University of Vienna. The next workshop will be held in the seminar room DOME on April 17, 2015.

Registration: Deadline: March 27, 2015. Please register by email to Andrea Nussbaumer.

Download flyer.



Teaching: Practical Course 300307
The "Practical Course in Molecular Microbiology, Microbial Ecology and Immunobiology 2 - Molecular genetic and postgenomic analyses of microbial communities and model organisms" UE 300307, will be held from February 16-27, 2015. More info: here.



Guest lecture by Christine Moissl-Eichinger
Prof. Dr. Christine Moissl-Eichinger, Universitätsklinik für Innere Medizin, Medizinische Universität Graz, Austria, will give a guest lecture:

"An archaeon formerly known as SM1: Cand. Altiarchaeum hamiconexum, an autotrophic surprise from the deep"

Th, January 29, 2015; 3:15 p.m., Lecture Hall 5, UZA 2 Download announcement



Silvia Bulgheresi obtains Venia Docendi

On December 16th, 2014, Silvia Bulgheresi defended her habilitation thesis entitled
"Faithful, ingenious and most useful: marine nematode and flatworm symbioses” and obtained the Venia Docendi (Lehrbefugnis) in the field of Molecular & Cellular Biology.

Her habilitation work summarises a decade of research on highly specific invertebrate-bacterium symbioses.
Congratulations Silvia!



Michaela Stieglmeier wins Doc.Award 2014 - award for outstanding thesis
Each year, the City of Vienna (department of culture/science) offers awards for outstanding doctoral theses at the University of Vienna. This is a new initiative in which the City of Vienna collaborates with the University of Vienna to support and encourage outstanding young scientists. Read more.

2014 Michaela Stieglmeier received one of the eight awards for her PhD thesis "Physiological and morphological characterization of
Nitrososphaera viennensis, an ammonia-oxidizing archaeon from soil". The award presenting ceremony will be held on the Dies Academicus in March 2015.

Congratulations Michaela!



Isabelle Anna Zink presents her PhD proposal at the faculty of Life Sciences
Isabelle Zink presents her PhD proposal titled "Investigation of CRISPR-mediated RNA interference in the Archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus". (Supervisor: Christa Schleper) at the faculty of Life Sciences.

Fr, January 30, 2015; 3:30 p.m.; seminar room 2E 411, UZA II



Guest lecture by Gabriele Berg
Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Biol. Dr.rer.nat. Gabriele Berg, Institute of Environmental Biotechnology, Graz University of Technology, will give a guest lecture:

"Microbial networking for health - of lichens, plants and humans"

Tu, December 9, 2014; 4 p.m. (sharp); Lecture Hall 7, UZA 2 Download announcement


Nika Pende receives the prestigious Rupert Riedl prize from the Haus des Meeres zur Förderung der Meeresforschung in Österreich

Die gemeinnützige Haus des Meeres Privatstiftung fördert jedes Jahr die zoologische Grundlagenforschung mit einigen tausend Euro. Jetzt wurden im Rahmen des Haus des Meeres-Supporting Days zwei der diesjährigen Forschungspreise vergeben.

read more (German only)

Congratulations Nika!



Faculty research news November 2014 Fakultät für Lebenswissenschaften
The faculty research news reports on Silvia Bulgheresi's research in her Emerging Field project "Wie Mikroorganismen sich in ihrer natürlichen Umwelt vermehren" (german only)

Nur eine Handvoll Bakterien, die sich im Labor gut kultivieren lässt, ist gut untersucht. Silvia Bulgheresi will, dass das nicht so bleibt... read coverage



Master thesis defense Ziga Zebec

Ziga Zebec has successfully defended his Master thesis "Development of a transformation system for the hyperthermophilic Archaeon Sulfolobus tokodaii"
We, November 5, 1:30p.m., seminar room 1.116
Congratulations Ziga!



Guest lecture by Norbert Vischer
Norbert Vischer, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands will give a talk:

"Using ImageJ with plugin ObjectJ to improve visualisation, interaction and data organisation during image analysis"
We, October 29, 2014; 2 p.m. (sharp); MoSys seminar room 1.320, UZA 1 Download annoucement


Two new papers about microbes in permafrost soils published

Congratulations to Antje Gittel et al., and Alexander Tveit et al. for their papers in Applied and Environmental Microbiology and Frontiers in Terrestrial Microbiology! Both teams aimed to shed light on the role of microbes in carbon cycling in permafrost soils rich in organic carbon.

Tveit et al. studied the microbiota in peat soil of Spitsbergen (Norway), which emit large amounts of the greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide and identified the microorganisms responsible for the emissions using environmental genomics techniques.
Tveit A, Urich T, Svenning MM (2014) Metatranscriptomic analysis of Arctic peat soil microbiota. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 80(18): 5761. doi:10.1128/AEM.01030-14.

Gittel et al. applied molecular microbial ecology methods to characterise the microbes in cryoturbated soils of North-East Greenland.
Gittel A, Barta J, Lacmanova I, Schnecker J, Wild B, Capek P, Kaiser C, Torsvik V, Richter A, Schleper C, Urich T (2014) Site- and horizon-specific pattern of microbial community structure and enzyme activities in permafrost-affected soils of Greenland. Frontiers in Microbiology - Terrestrial Microbiology. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00541.

"Both studies contribute urgently needed information about the functioning of microbes in these vulnerable permafrost soils threatened by global warming" says Dr. Tim Urich, corresponding author of both papers.



Upcoming event: Let's Talk about Symbiosis

Th, Oct 16, 2014
A joint seminar about symbiosis research in 3 departments of the University of Vienna. Download programme


Interview with Michaela Stieglmeier for SGM blog post!
Michaela Stieglmeier was recently interviewed by the Society of General Microbiology for a blog post regarding our latest pulication on Nitrososphaera viennensis. She reported on the suggestion of N. viennensis as the type strain of a new genus, family, order and class within the archaeal phylum Thaumarchaeota. Read more


Andrea Söllinger gets uni:docs fellowship

Andrea gets the uni:docs fellowship for the project "4ME - RuMEn MEthanoplamatales as target for MEthane mitigation: eco-physiology and interactions assessed by integrated MEta-omics", supervised by Christa Schleper and Tim Urich. This fellowship programme is an individual scholarship which aims at financing excellent doctoral candidates for a period of three years. The scholarship will provide outstanding early stage researchers with conditions that allow them to focus exclusively on their research and thus make substantial contributions to science. Congratulations! Read more


New paper in Trends in Microbiology

Discussing the ecological niche of ammonia-oxidizing archaea in the light of a comparative analysis of their transporter genes, a new paper has been published by Pierre Offre, Melina Kerou, Anja Spang and Christa Schleper in Trends in Microbiology
"Variability of the transporter gene complement in ammonia-oxidizing archaea" DOI: 10.1016/j.tim.2014.07.007



SEM micrographs of E. fertilis ectosymbiont

Nature Communications Paper gets lot of attention
Sept 15, 2014

"The life of a cell is straightforward: it doubles, divides in the middle and originates two identical daughter cells" Silvia Bulgheresi and her team show that it's not as simple as that and published their findings in Nature Communications.

Uni:view Magazin titles "Aus klein mach zwei" ( de) and " Think big!" (en)
EurekAltert,,, title "Think big! Bacteria breach cell division size limit" and science.apa title "Think big! Bakterien überwinden Grenze der Zellteilungsgröße"
Science.apa and title "Enorme Größenunterschiede bei Bakterien"

"Wiener Zeitung" Nr. 180 vom 16.09.2014 Seite: 28 Ressort: Feuilleton 180 Wiener Zeitung
Makro-Mikroben. Die Welt der Mikroben ist immer für Überraschungen gut. Forscher der Uni Wien berichten im Fachblatt „Nature Communications“ über ein auf Meereswürmern lebendes Bakterium mit enormen Größenunterschieden. Auf menschlichen Maßstab übertragen gibt es bei den Mikroben zwischen 0,6 und sechs Meter große Individuen.

Pende N, Leisch, Gruber-Vodicka H, Heindl N, Ott J, den Blaauwen T, Bulgheresi S (2014) Size-independent symmetric division in extraordinarily long cells. Nature Communications 5: 4803. doi:10.1038/ncomms5803.



Die Ö1 Kinderuni - radio broadcast with Christa Schleper

"Wer lebt im Vulkan? - Von Urbakterien und anderen Methusalems"
Su, July 27, 2014 05:10p.m.

Gestaltung: Anna Masoner
Sie leben an den verrücktesten Plätzen dieser Welt: in heißen Quellen, im Inneren von Vulkanen, auf Mülldeponien, im menschlichen Darm und möglicherweise sogar auf dem Mars. Die Rede ist von kleinen einzelligen Lebewesen mit Namen Archaeon. Wahrscheinlich gehören sie zu den ältesten Bewohnern der Erde. Die meisten Arten kommen ohne Sauerstoff aus, deshalb kann man sie etwa zu Methangasgewinnung in Biogasanlagen einsetzen. Christa Schleper, vom Department für Ökogenetik der Universität, hat schon viele der extremen Lebensräume der Archaea besucht. Den Ö1 Kinderuni Reporter/innen Peter, Boris, Daria, Alina erzählt sie, was die Winzlinge so faszinierend macht.



Christa Schleper gives lecture at Kinderuni 2014 at the University of Vienna

"Meine klitzekleinen Freunde - Warum Bakterien auf meinem Körper so wichtig sind"
We, July 16, 2014
Bakterien sind gar nicht eklig, sondern ganz wichtig für unsere Gesundheit. Alleine hinter dem rechten Ohrläppchen sitzen schon mehr als 100! Wie sehen die aus? Wofür brauchen wir so viele? Nach dieser Vorlesung sind sie wirklich eure Freunde geworden und ihr werdet lernen, wie sie das auch bleiben!



N. viennensis

Finally!! We celebrate the first official description of an ammonia oxidizing thaumarchaeota! Now the new phylum of Archaea is official!

Stieglmeier M, Klingl A, Alves RJ, Rittmann SK, Melcher M, Leisch N, Schleper C (2014) Nitrososphaera viennensis sp. nov., an aerobic and mesophilic ammonia-oxidizing archaeon from soil and member of the archaeal phylum Thaumarchaeota. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 64(Pt 8): 2738-2752. 2014 Jun 6. pii: ijs.0.063172-0. doi: 10.1099/ijs.0.063172-0.


Radio broadcast with Tim Urich
"Artenreichtum im Verdauungstrakt - Wie Darmbesiedler mit ihren Wirten zusammenleben"
Dimensionen - die Welt der Wissenschaft
Mo, July 7, 2014, 07:05 p.m.
Gestaltung: Birgit Dalheimer

Zehn bis einhundert Billionen Bakterien bevölkern den Darm eines erwachsenen Menschen. Das sind ein bis zwei Kilogramm Mikroorganismen. Vor rund einhundert Jahren hielt man sie noch ausschließlich für zu bekämpfende Krankheitserreger. Heute ist bekannt: Sie sind an der Krankheitsabwehr beteiligt, beeinflussen das Immunsystem, helfen bei der Vitaminversorgung, spielen eine Rolle bei der Regulation des Körpergewichts und vieles andere mehr. Bei der Geburt beginnt die Besiedelung des Darms mit Bakterien, bis ins Erwachsenenalter tummeln sich einige tausend verschiedene Arten in Dünn- und Dickdarm. Lange wusste man wenig bis nichts über die mikrobielle Besiedelung des Darms. Das hat sich nicht zuletzt dank molekularbiologischer Methoden in den vergangenen Jahren geändert.


Emerging Fields to Silvia Bulgheresi, Christa Schleper and Wolfram Weckwerth

Silvia Bulgheresi, Christa Schleper and Wolfram Weckwerth receive an "Emerging Fields" award for "Cell biology of microorganisms in their natural environment".
Emerging Fields are initiative research foci with a three-year limitation that will be awarded by the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Vienna. Read more


Guest lecture Dr. Sophie Abby
Sophie Abby, Microbial Evolutionary Genomics group, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, will give a guest lecture:

"Evolution playing a molecular building set: how secretion systems were exempted from bacterial appendages"
Fr, June 20, 2014; 11:00a.m. (sharp); MoSys seminar room 1.320, UZA 1
Download announcement



Science Day 2014 and afterwards Summer Party
PhD and MSc students of the departments present their research

, July 1, 09:00a.m.-07:00p.m., Lecture Hall I, UZA 1
Download Flyer

Guest Lectures:
Victor Smetacek, Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven
Gaspar Jekely, Max-Planck-Institute for Developmental Biology, Tübingen


Master thesis defense Andrea Söllinger

Andrea Söllinger has successfully defended her Master thesis "Investigations on the Environmental Distribution & Metabolism of methanogenic Thermoplasmata"
Th, June 26, 11:00a.m., MoSys seminar room 1.320
Congratulations Andrea!


Post Doc Michaela Stieglmeier

uni:view Magazin June 2014 Forschungsnewsletter
The uni:view Magazin reports on Christa Schleper and her team's recent research "Die dritte Domäne des Lebens" (german only). The related article Stieglmeier et
al (2014) was published in the ISME Journal (doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.220) earlier this year.

Die Mikrobiologin Christa Schleper beschäfigt sich seit vielen Jahren mit den umweltrelevanten Archaea. In einer aktuellen Publikation zeigen die Forscherin und ihr Team, dass einige dieser Kleinstlebewesen Treibhausgase emittieren...
read coverage


2 Master theses in archaea biology available

We are seeking two candidates for the cultivation and physiological/genomic characterization of novel archaea from hot springs and soil.

I want to know more!


Guest Lecture Dr. Susanne Erdmann

Susanne Erdmann, Danish Archaea Centre (DAC), Department of Biology, University of Kopenhagen, will give a guest lecture:

"Inter-viral conflicts that exploit host CRISPR immune systems of Sulfolobus"

We, April 23, 2014; 10 a.m. (sharp); Seminar room 1.115.


Let's talk about symbiosis

A joint seminar about symbiosis research in 3 departments of the University of Vienna with talks of Isabelle Zink and Nika Pende from our division!

Fr, April 11, 09:00a.m.-06:00p.m., seminar room (1.320) @ MoSys
Download flyer

Download programme


Dr. rer. nat. Michaela Stieglmeier
Michaela Stieglmeier successfully defended her PhD thesis “Physiological and morphological characterization of
Nitrososphaera viennensis, an ammonia-oxidizing archaeon from soil“

Fr, April 4, 2014; 10a.m. (sharp); Lecture Hall 4, UZA 2

Supervisor: Christa Schleper
Opponents: Jim Prosser, Gerhard Herndl and Felicitas Pfeifer
Head of the comittee: Irene Lichtscheidl

Congratulations, Michaela!


Guest lecture Prof. Felicitas Pfeifer
Felicitas Pfeifer, TU Darmstadt, will give a guest lecture:

"Life in high salt environments: Haloarchaea and the formation of gas vesicles"

Tu, April 3, 2014; 1:30p.m. (sharp); Lecture Hall 4, UZA 2
Download announcement


NEW PAPER from our lab in Nucleic Acids Research
Ziga Zebec, Andrea Manica, Jing Zhang, Malcolm White and Christa Schleper have published "CRISPR-mediated targeted mRNA degradation in the archaeon Sulfolobus solfataricus" in Nucleic Acids Research in which they demonstrate for the first time mRNA degradation by an RNA interference process in a prokaryote.


Michaela Stieglmeier, Maria Mooshammer, Barbara Kitzler, Wolfgang Wanek, Sophie Zechmeister-Boltenstern, Andreas Richter and Christa Schleper have published "Aerobic nitrous oxide production through N-nitrosating hybrid formation in ammonia-oxidizing archaea" in which they demonstrate in close collaboration with two other groups in Vienna the differences of greenhouse gas production by ammonia oxidizing archaea versus bacteria.


Faculty research news March 2014 Fakultät für Lebenswissenschaften
The faculty research news reports on Silvia Bulgheresi and her team's research "Eine Beziehung fürs Leben" (german only)

Silvia Bulgheresi erforscht eine einmalige Symbiose. Die Beteiligten: Ein maritimer Fadenwurm und sein Bakterium...
read coverage





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