Physiology and Genetics of Lower Eukaryotes
Eckhard Boles studied Biology and Chemistry at the University of Cologne. Yeasts are unicellular, eukaryotic microorganisms. They are important in food production, for example in bread baking or producing alcohol by fermentation. They are also used in the production of biochemical and therapeutic substances. Furthermore, yeasts are multifaceted model organisms for scientists. At the heart of Professor Eckhard Boles's research are the questions of how yeast metabolism functions and how industry could use it even more intensively. For this he investigates a number of different yeast species, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, more commonly known as baker's yeast.
Boles analyses the processes that enable substrates such as sugar to penetrate the cell membrane and its organelles. He additionally analyses how enzymes transform these substrates in the cell, and how the products of this metabolism are subsequently released from the cell. During alcoholic fermentation, sugar is converted into ethanol, a highenergy metabolic product. It can be used, not only in the form of alcoholic drinks, but also as biofuel.
Yeasts favour glucose as sugar, and are, for example, unable to process wood sugar (xylose), a sugar that is often contained in plant waste. However, in order to increase the use of such sugars, Boles and his team introduce new metabolic pathways into yeast cells based on their scientific findings. To achieve this, they mutate the genes of known strains or develop new strains, and then introduce synthetic, computer- designed genes into the cultures. One of Boles's objective is, for example, to increase the production of bioethanol. He is also developing yeast strains that are able to generate butanol, which has a higher energy density, and other important biomolecules. In this manner, vegetable waste could be turned into high-quality fuel, plastic, or other valuable substances.
Boles teaches molecular biology in the new "Molecular Biotechnology" Master's Programme. "I want to show students the practical application of the methods we use in synthetic biology and basic research. In this manner, they can learn, for example, how to induce microorganisms to have completely new and useful features", Boles reports. Furthermore, Boles is responsible for teaching of microbiology and molecular genetics for students of medical study programmes.
In 1994, he completed his doctorate with a dissertation on the regulation of glycolysis in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae at the Technical University (TU) of Darmstadt. His doctoral thesis was awarded the Hochschulpreis of the Friends of the TU Darmstadt. Boles continued his work at the Institute for Microbiology at the University of Düsseldorf and received his Habilitation for his analysis of glucose transport and metabolism in yeasts in 2000. While working as a associate professor, Boles was appointed professor at Frankfurt University in 2002. He is a co-founder of the company "Butalco", which conducts research on the production of butanol fuel from plant waste. He has acted as a consultant for several companies.
Prof. Dr. Eckhard Boles
Institute of Molecular Biological
60438 Frankfurt am Main
Telephone: +49 (0)69 798 29513