I came to Lund 2004 after 5 years as Associate Professor at Uppsala University. Before that, I did two postdoc projects; 1994-1996 at Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas in Madrid where I worked on bacterial cell division with Prof. Miguel Vicente, and 1996-1998 at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK, working on Streptomyces developmental biology with Prof. Keith Chater. My PhD at Göteborg University 1994 was on physiological adaptations of bacterial cells to nutrient deprivation.
I am a convinced microbiologist, and the immense impacts of
microorganisms on essentially all aspects of life on this planet have
always fascinated me. The investigation and exploration of the
exceptionally diverse features, functions and activities of the microbes
is one of the most exciting areas in current biology, and also one of
the most important with respect to improving our health, well-being, and
sustainable management of our environment.
The focus for my own research is on the cellular scale. For a researcher armed with the powerful tools of genetics and molecular biology, the simple bacterial cells provide the best and most pleasing experimental systems for investigating fundamental functions of a living cell. We are also applying advanced microscopy, which in recent years has revolutionized the understanding of prokaryotic cells and visualized the remarkable degree of three-dimensional organization, complexity, and beauty of these deceivingly simple organisms.
The wider question that we want to understand is how molecules of a cell govern such essential and complex functions like cell division, cell polarity, determination of cell shape, and cell differentiation. Processes like these have evolved from common ancestors of both eukaryotes and prokaryotes, and it becomes more and more clear that the bacterial versions of these basic cell functions use similar ancestral molecules, for example cytoskeletal proteins, as those used in animal and plant cells. The model organisms that we use, Gram-positive bacteria of the genus Streptomyces, provide unique possibilities to study some of these fundamental functions, and show several intriguing parallels to the corresponding processes in eukaryotic cells.
Because of the alarming and rising problems with antibiotic resistance among bacterial pathogens, there is an urgent need to rapidly develop new types of antibiotics and other anti-bacterial agents. The knowledge about essential cell functions in bacteria and the experimental systems that we develop can be used to find new targets for antibiotics and to screen for molecules that can work as antibiotics. The focus of one of my projects is to investigate bacterial cell division as an antibiotic target.
Finally, streptomycetes are nature’s most competent chemists and produce a an enormous range of secondary metabolites, many of which are antibiotics. In fact, two thirds of all known antibiotics come streptomycetes and their relatives within the phylum Actinobacteria, and about half of the clinically used antibiotics are from the genus Streptomyces. Thus, these organisms are of a huge industrial and medical importance, and an improved understanding of their biology, growth habits, regulatory mechanisms, and cell differentiation will greatly facilitate the exploration of streptomycetes in various industrial and biotechnological applications.
Heichlinger, A, M. Ammelburg, E. M. Kleinschnitz, A. Latus, I. Maldener, K. Flärdh, W. Wohlleben, G. Muth. (2011) The MreB-like protein Mbl of S. coelicolor A3(2) depends on MreB for proper localization and contributes to spore wall synthesis. J. Bacteriol. 193:1533-1542.
Flärdh, K. (2010) Cell polarity and the control of apical growth in Streptomyces. Curr. Op. Microbiol. 13:758-765. (Review)
Salerno, P. , J. Larsson, G. Bucca, E. Laing, C. P. Smith, K. Flärdh. (2009) One of the two genes encoding nucleoid-associated HU proteins in Streptomyces coelicolor is developmentally regulated and specifically involved in spore maturation. J. Bacteriol. 191:6489-6500.
Flärdh, K. and Buttner, M. J. (2009) Streptomyces morphogenetics: Dissecting differentiation in a filamentous bacterium. Nature Rev. Microbiol. 7:36-49. (Review)
Hempel, A. M., S. Wang, M. Letek, J. A. Gil, and K. Flärdh. (2008) Assemblies of DivIVA mark sites for hyphal branching and can establish new zones of cell wall growth in Streptomyces coelicolor. J. Bacteriol. 90:7579-7583.
Ausmees, N., H. Wahlstedt, S. Bagchi, M. A. Elliot, M. J. Buttner, and K. Flärdh. (2007) SmeA, a small membrane protein with multiple functions in Streptomyces sporulation including targeting of a SpoIIIE/FtsK-like protein to cell division septa. Mol. Microbiol. 65:1458-1473.
Grantcharova, N, U. Lustig, and Flärdh, K. (2005) Dynamics of FtsZ assembly during sporulation in Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2). J. Bacteriol. 187:3227-3237.
Flärdh, K. (2003) Essential role of DivIVA in polar growth and morphogenesis in Streptomyces coelicolor A3(2). Mol. Microbiol. 49:1523-1536.