One of our goals is to get a more coherent picture of different bacterial phenotypes and their relation with the physiological state of the cell. For example we investigate how swimming and chemotaxis is related with the growth physiology of cells. Other phenotypes we study include biofilm formation or growth in harsh environments. Increasingly, we study such questions also with the ecological context of specific environments in mind.
The major environment we currently consider is the mammalian intestine. Our increasing knowledge of the gut microbiota and intestinal biology opens up unprecedented possibilities to consider bacterial physiology in a well known ecological context. For example, for Escherichia coli – probably still the best studied model organism in biology – very versatile physiological characteristics have been described. Besides swimming behavior and biofilm formation, this includes catabolite repression and the preferred consumption of specific sugars. To rationalize these different phenotypes, their regulation and integration on the cellular level we have to take E. coli’s major ecological context into account: the upper large intestine.