Prof. Dr. Ute Hentschel Humeida


Research Division 3 - Marine Ecology
Research Unit - Marine Symbioses


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


  • 07/2015-current Professor (W3) of Marine Symbioses, 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

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS (out of >170 publications total)

  1. Maldonado M, López-Acosta M, Busch K, Slaby BM, Bayer K, Beazley L, Hentschel U, Kenchington E and Rapp HT (2021). A Microbial Nitrogen Engine Modulated by Bacteriosyncytia in Hexactinellid Sponges: Ecological Implications for Deep-Sea Communities. Front. Mar. Sci. | DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2021.638505

  2. Rix L, Ribes M, Coma R, Jahn MT, van Oevelen D, de Goeij J, Escrig S, Meibom A, Hentschel U (2020). Heterotrophy in the earliest gut: A single-cell view of heterotrophic carbon and nitrogen assimilation in sponge-microbe symbioses. ISME J:

  3. Jahn MT, Arkhipova, K, Markert SM, Stigloher C, Lachnit T, Pita L, Kupczok A, Ribes M, Stengel ST, Rosenstiel P, Dutilh BE, Hentschel U (2019) A Phage Protein Aids Bacterial Symbionts in Eukaryote Immune Evasion. Cell Host & Microbe. Published: September 24,2019 DOI:

  4. Bayer K, Jahn MT, Slaby BM, Moitinho-Silva L, Hentschel U (2018) Marine sponges as Chloroflexi Hot Spots: Genomic insights and high resolution visualization of an abundant and diverse symbiotic clade. American Society for Microbiology Journals.  Published online: 26.12.2018
  5. Pita L, Rix L, Slaby BM, Franke A, Hentschel U (2018). The sponge holobiont in a changing ocean: from microbes to ecosystems. Microbiome 6(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s40168-018-0428-1.
  6. Slaby BM, Hackl T, Horn H, Bayer K, Hentschel U (2017). Metagenomic binning of a marine sponge microbiome reveals unity in defense but metabolic specialization. ISME J.: doi: 10.1038/ismej.2017.101.
  7. Abdelmohsen UR , Balasubramanian S, Oelschlaeger TA, Grkovic T, Pham NB, Quinn RJ, Hentschel U (2017). Potential of marine natural products against drug-resistant fungal, viral, and parasitic infections. Lancet Infect. Dis.: doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(16)30323-1
  8. 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 Comm.: doi: 10.1038/ncomms11870
  9. Jahn MT, Markert SM, Ryu T, Ravasi T, Stigloher C, Hentschel U, Moitinho-Silva L. (2016) Shedding light on cell compartmentation in the candidate phylum Poribacteria by high resolution visualisation and transcriptional profiling. Sci Rep.: doi: 10.1038/srep35860
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. Hentschel U, Piel J, Degnan SM, Taylor MW (2012) Genomic insights into the marine sponge microbiome. Nature Reviews Microbiology 10(9): 641-654
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. Hentschel U, Felbeck H (1993) Nitrate respiration in the hydrothermal vent tube worm Riftia pachyptila. Nature 366: 338-340


  • Editorial service in the areas of Marine Symbioses, Marine Microbiology, Marine Biotechnology

  • Reviewer activity for the DFG, DAAD and other international funding institutions

  • Meeting Organisation, i.e., Vice-chair for the Gordon Research Conference “Animal-Microbe Symbioses”, Waterville Valley, USA, 2017

  • Public Outreach

  • Meeting Organisation, i.e., Chair for the Gordon Research Conference “Animal-Microbe Symbioses”, Waterville Valley, USA, 2019