Prof. Dr. Ute Hentschel Humeida


Research Division 3 - Marine Ecology
Research Unit - Marine Microbiology

Prof. Dr. rer.nat. Ute Hentschel Humeida


Room: DW-307
Phone: ++49 431 600-4480
Fax: ++49 431 600-4482
E-Mail: uhentschel(at)

Personal Assistant / Office Management:
Bettina Reuter
Phone: ++49-431 600-4481
Fax: ++49-431 600-4482
E-Mail: breuter(at)




  • 07/2015-current Professor (W3) of Marine Microbiology, GEOMAR
  • 09/2008-06/2015 Professor (W2) of Chemical Ecology, University of Würzburg
  • 05/2004-08/2008 Head of a Junior Research Group at the Research Center for Infectious Diseases, University of Würzburg
  • 2004 Habilitation in Microbiology, University of Würzburg
  • 1998-2003 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Infection Biology, University of Würzburg
  • 1995-1997 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Dept. of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, UC Santa Barbara, USA
  • 1989-1994 Graduate studies of Marine Biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, USA and PhD Degree
  • 1986-1988 Undergraduate studies of biology at the University of Hannover and Bachelor’s Degree (Vordiplom)


Marine animals live in intimate contact with their aquatic environment that is characterized by diverse and abundant microorganisms. My research goals are to provide an understanding on the physiology, metabolism and molecular mechanisms of interaction between marine animals and their microbial partners, by taking a function-driven approach. A combination of modern molecular biology techniques, in particular the –omics repertoire, in vivo experimentation, and regular field work is employed towards this goal. Sponges (phylum Porifera) serve as excellent experimental models towards these goals because of their impressive microbial and chemical diversity that not only contributes to their nutritional ecology but has also elicited the interest of the pharmaceutical industry. Our efforts are directed at providing a deeper understanding of the high-complexity microbial ecosystems within sponges, and at providing research strategies to a sustainable use of this natural resource. Specific research areas are:

  • Marine invertebrate-microbe interactions
  • Microbiology of marine sponges
  • Uncultivated microorganisms
  • Omics (metagenomics, single cell genomics, (meta)-transcriptomics)
  • Drug discovery from marine actinomycetes


  • Editorial service in the areas of Marine Symbioses, Marine Microbiology, Marine Biotechnology
  • Chair of the “1st International Symposium on Sponge Microbiology” (Würzburg, 2011), and scientific advisory board member of the “2nd International Symposium on Sponge Microbiology” (Baltimore, 2014)
  • Vice-chair for the Gordon Research Conference “Animal-Microbe Symbioses” (Waterville Valley, 2016)
  • VAAM-Specialty Group Leader “Symbiotic Interactions”


  1. Abdelmohsen UR , Balasubramanian S, Oelschlaeger TA, Grkovic T, Pham NB, Quinn RJ, Hentschel U. Potential of marine natural products against drug-resistant fungal, viral, and parasitic infections. Lancet Infect Dis: in press
  2. Thomas T, Moitinho-Silva L,  Lurgi M, Björk JR, Easson C, Astudillo C, Olson JB, Erwin PM, López-Legentil S, Luter H, Chaves-Fonnegra A, Costa R, Schupp P, Steindler L, Erpenbeck D, Gilbert J, Knight R, Ackerman G, Lopez JV, Taylor MW, Thacker RW, Montoya JM, Hentschel U, Webster N. (2016) Global Sponge Microbiome: Diversity, structure and convergent evolution of symbiont communities across the phylum Porifera. Nature Communications, 7:11870. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11870
  3. Burgsdorf I, Slaby BM, Handley KM, Haber M, Blom J, Marshall CW, Gilbert JA, Hentschel U, Steindler L (2015) Lifestyle evolution in cyanobacterial symbionts of sponges. Mbio 6(3): e00391-15; doi: 10.1128/mBio.00391-15.
  4. Abdelmohsen UR, Grkovic T, Balasubramanian S, Kamel MS, Quinn RJ, Hentschel U (2015) Elicitation of secondary metabolism in actinomycetes. Biotechnol. Adv. pii: S0734-9750(15)30012-4; doi: 10.1016/j.biotechadv.2015.06.003
  5. Moitinho-Silva L, Seridi L, Ryu T, Voolstra CR, Ravasi T, Hentschel U (2014) Revealing microbial functional activities in the Red Sea sponge Stylissa carteri by metatranscriptomics. Environ Microbiol 16(12): 3683-3698
  6. Wilson MC, Mori T, Rückert C, Uria AR, Helf MJ, Takada K, Gernert C, Steffens UA, Heycke N, Schmitt S, Rinke C, Helfrich EJ, Brachmann AO, Gurgui C, Wakimoto T, Kracht M, Crüsemann M, Hentschel U, Abe I, Matsunaga S, Kalinowski J, Takeyama H, Piel J (2014) An environmental bacterial taxon with a large and distinct metabolic repertoire. Nature 506 (7486): 58-62
  7. Kamke J, Sczyrba A, Ivanova N, Schwientek P, Rinke C, Mavromatis K, Woyke T, Hentschel U (2013) Single-cell genomics reveals complex carbohydrate degradation patterns in poribacterial symbionts of marine sponges. ISME J 7(12): 2287-2300
  8. McFall-Ngai M, Hadfield M, Bosch T, Carey H, Domazet-Loso T, Douglas A, Dubilier N, Eberl G, Fukami T, Gilbert S, Hentschel U, King N, Kjelleberg S, Knol, AH, Kremer N, Mazmanian S, Metcalf J, Nealson K, Pierce N, Rawls J, Reid A, Ruby E, Rumpho, M, Sanders J, Tautz, D, Wernegreen J (2013) Animals in a bacterial world: a new imperative for the life sciences. Proc Natl Acad Sci 110(9): 3229-3236
  9. Hentschel U, Piel J, Degnan SM, Taylor MW (2012) Genomic insights into the marine sponge microbiome. Nature Reviews Microbiology 10(9): 641-654
  10. Schmitt S, Tsai P, Bell J, Fromont F, Ilan M, Lindquist NL, Perez T, Rodrigo A, Schupp PJ, Vacelet J, Webster N, Hentschel U, Taylor MW (2012) Assessing the complex sponge microbiota - core, variable, and species-specific bacterial communities in marine sponges. ISME J 6(3): 564-57
  11. Siegl A, Kamke J, Hochmuth T, Piel J, Richter M, Liang C, Dandekar T, Hentschel U (2010) Single cell genomics reveals the lifestyle of Poribacteria, a candidate phylum symbiotically associated with marine sponges. ISME J 5(1): 61-70
  12. Dobrindt U, Hochhut B, Hentschel U, Hacker J (2004) Genomic islands in pathogenic and environmental microorganisms. Nature Reviews Microbiology 2(5): 414-424
  13. Hacker J, Hentschel U, Dobrindt U (2003) Dynamics of prokaryotic chromosomes and diseases. Science 301 (5634): 790-793
  14. Heithoff DM, Conner CP, Hanna PC, Julio SM, Hentschel U, Mahan JM (1997) Bacterial infection as assessed by in vivo gene expression. Proc Natl Acad Sci 94: 934-939
  15. Hentschel U, Felbeck H (1993) Nitrate respiration in the hydrothermal vent tube worm Riftia pachyptila. Nature 366: 338-340

List of all Publications