Apart from antibiotic resistance, I am also more generally interested in how biotic and abiotic stressors can perturb microbial ecosystems, how that affects microbial interactions, and how bacteria evolve to cope with pollutant load. Altered states of human-associated microbial communities have been linked to a large number of diseases, such as IBD, periodontal disease, obesity, and various forms of cancer. Generally, it is yet unknown what the specific mechanisms are that cause dysbiosis, but microbial biodiversity seems to play an important role in maintaining a healthy microbiota. I want to understand the factors that contribute to functional stability in microbial communities, i.e. how a consortium of microorganisms can coexist and maintain a stable relationship with each other and their host. To investigate these factors, I assess the effects of disturbances on microbial communities using model systems and complex communities in microcosms, by exposing them to stressors, including antibiotics, invading species and nutrient limitation.

Open questions of interest

  1. Which genes are important for community resilience to environmental changes?
  2. How do stressful conditions, such as pollution, influence interactions in microbial communities?
  3. How can we link perturbation of a microbial community to genetic changes?
  4. How large disturbances are needed to cause certain degrees of effects on microbial species loss, loss of key ecosystem functionality, and/or loss of ecosystem services?
  5. How do dormant species and the “rare biosphere” contribute to the stability of microbial communities?
  6. What is the role of mobile DNA in resilience of microbial ecosystems to perturbations?

Key publications

  • Bengtsson-Palme J, Alm Rosenblad M, Molin M, Blomberg A: Metagenomics reveals that detoxification systems are underrepresented in marine bacterial communities. BMC Genomics, 15, 749 (2014). doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-15-749 [Paper link]
  • Bengtsson-Palme J, Boulund F, Fick J, Kristiansson E, Larsson DGJ: Shotgun metagenomics reveals a wide array of antibiotic resistance genes and mobile elements in a polluted lake in India. Frontiers in Microbiology, 5, 648 (2014). doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00648 [Paper link]
  • Sanli K, Bengtsson-Palme J, Nilsson RH, Kristiansson E, Alm Rosenblad M, Blanck H, Eriksson KM: Metagenomic sequencing of marine periphyton: Taxonomic and functional insights into biofilm communities. Frontiers in Microbiology, 6, 1192 (2015). doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.01192 [Paper link]
  • Bahram M, Hildebrand F, Forslund SK, Anderson JL, Soudzilovskaia NA, Bodegom PM, Bengtsson-Palme J, Anslan S, Coelho LP, Harend H, Huerta-Cepas J, Medema MH, Maltz MR, Mundra S, Olsson PA, Pent M, Põlme S, Sunagawa S, Ryberg M, Tedersoo L, Bork P: Structure and function of the global topsoil microbiome. Nature, 560, 7717, 233–237 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0386-6 [Paper link]