Frederic Bertels

Research Group Leader
Affiliated projects

I started my scientific career in Jena where I studied bioinformatics. I then went on to write my Diploma thesis at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, which I wrote on protein function prediction based on secondary structure comparison. After I finished my thesis work, I decided to get to know the world and continued doing science in a gap year in Auckland, New Zealand. In Auckland I started working in the Bioinformatics Institute with Allen Rodrigo on inferring phylogenies from metagenomic sequencing data (Rodrigo et al. 2008). I then went on to work with Justin O’Sullivan on predicting the three dimensional structure of the yeast genome (Rodley et al. 2009).

After having spent almost a year in Auckland, I met Paul for the first time at Massey University in Auckland. Paul and I got along well enough for him to offer me a PhD position in his lab and I started working on repetitive sequences in the P. fluorescens SBW25 genome. During my PhD I discovered that REPINs are the replicative unit REP sequences are organized in (Bertels and Rainey 2011aBertels and Rainey 2011b) and that a single copy transposase is responsible for the dissemination of REPINs inside the genome (Bertels et al. 2017a). I also worked on a range of other exciting projects that Paul and other lab members needed computational support with.

After my PhD I went on to do a PostDoc at the Biozentrum in Basel under the supervision of Erik van Nimwegen and Olin Silander. In Basel I learned a lot about bacterial phylogenetic trees and how to build them (Bertels et al. 2014).

After about 2.5 years I went on to do my second PostDoc with Roland Regoes at the ETH Zurich. Roland and I worked on the evolution of HIV, which was my first exposure to the evolution of viruses (Bertels et al. 2018Bons et al. 2018Bertels et al. 2018Bertels et al. 2019). Although I am not working on HIV anymore, I am still very much interested in virus evolution and decided to use a more tractable experimental system of PhiX174 infecting E. coli C. My first (very talented!) PhD student Jordan Romeyer Dherbey is currently investigating how E. coli C becomes resistant to PhiX174 and how PhiX174 can overcome this resistance.

In 2015 I started a PostDoc with Arne Traulsen in the Department of Evolutionary Theory here at the Max Planck Institute in Plön. Together with Arne and Chaitanya Gokhale, I worked on inferring REPIN duplication rates (Bertels et al. 2017b). This was the first time we took advantage of the fact that REPINs are sequence populations to learn something about REPIN population dynamics.

In June 2017 I started my current position as the group leader of the Microbial Molecular Evolution lab. We are interested in learning about phage evolution and REPIN/RAYT evolution and ecology. Here is a link to my group website.

Research interests

Evolution and ecology of intragenomic sequence populations (REPIN and RAYTs in particular).

Phage and virus evolution.

Bacterial evolution (e.g. plant pathogens)  and phylogenetics.


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