Knut Drescher

Collective and Individual Behaviours in Bacteria


Bacteria are usually seen as more or less unregulated dividing individual cells. In fact, many bacteria do not live solitary, but organise together with their fellows or even cells from different species, so called biofilms that by a mucose barreer protect against adverse environments. The transition from a free lifestyle towards existence in a biofilm means that the individual cells has to deeply change its behaviour. For instance, the metabolism has to be reprogrammed in a manner that the collective achievement biofilm becomes possible. This leads to the question, how these normally competing single cells "negotiate" on this common behaviour (that is profitable for all). Single cells might try to profit, without investing themselves - a fundamental "social" problem that is even known from human societies. How do they communicate, how is "egoism" balanced with collective interest? Using molecular methods in combination with mathematical and organisation theoretical considerations the Drescher lab tries to understand this simple, but efficient form of behaviour.




After studying physics in Oxford, Prof. Dr. Knut Drescher mutated into a biologist. His Ph.D., also in Oxford, already dealt with biophysics, two postdoc stays in Cambridge (biophysics) and Princeton (molecular biology) led him towards his current research topic, the collective behaviour of bacteria. In 2014 he became leader of a research group on bacterial biofilms at the Max-Planck Institute in Marburg, where he also was inaugurated as professor in 2015.