Getting inside the protective shield of bacteria


Many particularly dangerous bacteria are protected by an outer membrane. We want to understand the mechanism by which this membrane develops in order to find targets for new active substances.

Portrait / project description (ongoing research project)

Infections by so-called Gram-negative antibiotic-resistant bacteria are difficult to treat because these bacteria are protected by two membranes. Yet there are points in the outer membrane that are open to attack by active substances. We are characterizing one of these points, the protein BamA. BamA controls the process of incorporating other proteins into the membrane. If BamA is knocked out, this is fatal for the bacterium. We are studying the function of BamA and the incorporation of proteins at the atomic level, using NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography. This makes the interactions between BamA and other molecules visible. In this way we can gain a better understanding of the mechanisms and look for active substances that interrupt them.


Resistant strains of Gram-negative bacteria against which all known antibiotics are ineffective occur with increasing frequency. There is an urgent need for new active substances to control them.


The aim of our project is to understand the mechanisms that Gram-negative bacteria use to incorporate membrane proteins into their outer membrane.


Our findings can point to possible new targets for antibiotic substances that can then be sought and adapted specifically. We will also optimise existing antibiotic candidates in the same way.

Original title

The molecular mechanism of outer membrane protein insertion by BamA and its role as a target for novel antibiotics

Project leader

Prof. Sebastian Hiller, Biozentrum, Universität Basel, Basel



Further information on this content



Prof. Sebastian Hiller Biozentrum Universität Basel Klingelbergstrasse 70 4056 Basel +41 61 267 21 01