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Bachelor-, Master-, Diplomarbeiten │ 3. Juni 2016

Feasting on fungi: Using fungus-feeding bacteria and protozoa to suppress fungal pathogens


Fungal pathogens pose a major threat to crop plants and cause huge economic losses. Since chemical pest control has many downsides (contamination, health issues e.g.), current research focusses on alternative methods. One method is to use soil microorganisms as antagonists of plant pests. Examples for such organisms are fungus-feeding (mycophagous) bacteria (Ballhausen et al., 2015; Leveau and Preston, 2008) and protists (Geisen et al., 2016). Both groups have already been shown to actively search for and feed on living fungal hyphae in the rhizosphere. While both groups can influence the growth and survival of fungi, their combined effect on rhizosphere pathogens has never been tested. It is, however, probable that bacteria and protists might interact in various ways while feeding on fungal tissue. The investigation of their interactive feeding effects will form a basis for their possible future application as a combined biocontrol agent.


This project will test one (or more) of the following hypotheses:


  1. Simultaneous hyphal colonization by protists and bacteria is widespread
  2. Fungi are more efficiently “grazed” by a combination of bacteria and protists as compared to feeding of individual groups.
  3. “Wounded” fungi that leak nutrients due to feeding of one group (e.g. bacteria) can stimulate chemotaxis of the other group (e.g. protists).
  4. Large soil pores select for protist grazing of fungal hyphae, small pores select for bacterial feeding. A combination of bacteria and protists can therefore more efficiently graze a habitat.


If you are interested in the project, please contact Dr. Max Ballhausen ( This project will be a collaboration between Max Ballhausen (Großbeeren) and Dr. Stefan Geisen (Wageningen University) and will include a short research stay in Wageningen.


Ballhausen, M.-B., van Veen, J.A., Hundscheid, M.P.J., de Boer, W., 2015. Methods for baiting and enriching fungus-feeding (mycophagous) rhizosphere bacteria. Frontiers in Microbiology 6, 1-11.

Geisen, S., Koller, R., Hünninghaus, M., Dumack, K., Urich, T., Bonkowski, M., 2016. The soil food web revisited: Diverse and widespread mycophagous soil protists. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 94, 10-18.

Leveau, J.H.J., Preston, G.M., 2008. Bacterial mycophagy: definition and diagnosis of a unique bacterial-fungal interaction. New Phytologist 177, 859-876.