MD.20.010 – The M-I/O consortium – visualizing protein-mediated input/output through the microbial cell wall

Route: Measuring and detecting: anything, anytime, anywhere

Cluster question: 136 Cells are the buildings blocks of life. How do they work and what can they teach us about life processes?

Cell walls not only determine the shape of microorganisms, they also provide protection and have been crucial for the development of these organisms into the most dominant lifeforms on earth. Microorganisms have a significant impact on human society, as they produce fermented foods, medicines, biomaterials and enzymes. Multibillion-euro industries that are highly dependent for their income on the efficacy of molecular transport through the microbial cell wall. The microbial cell wall also plays a crucial role in mediating microbial infections in humans, life stock and plant crops, and are the target for the most successful antibiotics. Despite these crucial roles, it is surprising how little is currently known about their molecular architecture, which can be considered as one of the main remaining black boxes in microbiology. The main reason for this lack of knowledge is the immense complexity of cell walls, which are composed of a mixture of heavily crosslinked polysaccharides dispersed by a wide variety of protein complexes that execute vital processes for the cell. Compounding this, the embedded protein complexes are highly dynamic making their study difficult. To overcome these challenges we will implement a combinatorial approach using cellular imaging, Cryo-EM/TM and structural proteomics. Specifically, we will integrate light with electron microscopy, develop novel proteomics approaches specifically for microbial cell envelope complexes, and develop the software solutions to integrate the diverse datasets and couple the insights to cellular functions. Application of this multidisciplinary approach to obtain detailed structural insights into the protein complexes of microbial cell walls will revolutionize our knowledge of this key cellular component, enabling the future engineering of microbial cell walls in a rational manner for industrial applications and the development of novel approaches to target the cell wall of microbial pathogens.


microbial cell wall, microscopy, proteins, proteomics

Other organisations

TNO, Utrecht University (UU)


Organisation University of Amsterdam (UvA)
Name Prof. dr. L.W. (Leendert) Hamoen