Bacterial genome architectures are relatively uniform with the majority of sequenced genomes consisting of a single circular chromosome. However, about 10% of the sequenced bacterial species maintain multipartite genomes. Such genomes are particularly prevalent in the α proteobacterial order Rhizobiales. Members of this order with divided genomic DNA maintain a primary chromosome and up to seven secondary replicons. The latter are classified as plasmids, megaplasmids, chromids or secondary chromosomes, some of these as large as 4 Mb. Multipartite genome architectures provide a blueprint for modularization and expansion of bacterial genomes. While there are detailed models and information on the spatial organization of the single circular chromosomes of laboratory species such as Escherichia coli and Caulobacter crescentus there is little information on the organization and architectural constraints of genomic DNA in bacteria carrying more than two large replicons. In Sinorhizobium meliloti, a model species from the Rhizobiales with tripartite genome, we explored the spatial organization and possibilities of genome architectures by constructing and characterizing a variety of genome variants, including strains with reduced and extended replicon content, and engineered mono- and bipartite genome configurations.
Anke Becker studied Biology at Bielefeld University, Germany. From 1992 to 1994, she did her PhD in microbial genetics in the laboratory of Prof. Alfred Pühler at Bielefeld University supported by a scholarship of the German National Merit Foundation. From 1994 to 2007, she headed a research group with focus on microbial polysaccharide production and omics technologies at the Genetics Department and the Center for Biotechnology (CeBiTec) at Bielefeld University, and in 1999, was visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. From 2001 to 2006, she received junior group funding in the Bioinformatics Initiative of the German Research Foundation (DFG). Anke Becker was appointed adjunct professor at Bielefeld University in 2007. From 2008 to 2011, she was a professor of microbial genetics and systems biology and member of the Center for Biological Systems Analysis (ZBSA) at the University of Freiburg. Since 2011 she is full professor of microbiology and PI at the Center for Synthetic Microbiology (SYNMIKRO) at the Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany. Since 2016, Anke Becker is the director of SYNMIKRO, a research center of the Philipps-Universität Marburg in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology.
Anke Becker has authored more than 160 original research articles, received a Lise-Meitner fellowship (Ministry for Sciences and Research, NRW, Germany) in 1998 and a Heisenberg fellowship (DFG) in 2002, was scientific member of the Permanent Senate Commission on Genetic Research of the DFG from 2015 to 2020, and is serving on the DFG review board since 2020 and as editor or associate editor of Journal of Bacteriology, Journal of Biotechnology and BioDesign Research.
The Becker lab studies the genetics, physiology and cell biology of microbe-host interactions. Main interests are the molecular mechanisms underlying symbiotic and pathogenic bacteria-host interactions and their evolution. A major focus of the research is on soil-dwelling alpha-proteobacterial rhizobia that are capable of entering a nitrogen-fixing root nodule endosymbiosis with leguminous plants. Further research interests are bacterial surface polysaccharides, digital information storage in DNA, evolution and function of bacterial multipartite genome architectures, and exploration of alphaproteobacterial chassis, such as Sinorhizobia and Methylobacteria, for synthetic microbiology and biotechnology.
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