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Hinrichs Lab - Leibniz Prize

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize awarded by the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)

Duration:  October 2011 - September 2018
Funding:  Deutsche Forschungs­ge­meinsch­aft (DFG)
Principal Investigator: Kai-Uwe Hinrichs
Involved scientists in the Hinrichs Lab:  see bold names in publications
Selected partners:

Fumio Inagaki (JAMSTEC), Kirsten Küsel (Universität Jena), Mark Lever (ETH Zurich), Shuhei Ono (MIT), Ann Pearson (Harvard University), Alexander Probst (UC Berkeley; Universität Duisburg-Essen), Tim Urich (Universität Wien; Universität Greifswald), Fengping Wang (Shanghai Jiaotong University)


Background and objectives

Kai-Uwe Hinrichs re­ceived the Gottfried Wil­helm Leib­niz Prize, Germany's most prestigious research award, in 2011 for his research on microbial methane turnover in marine sediments and microbial life in the deep biosphere. This prize awarded to oustanding researchers aims to improve their working conditions, to expand research opportunities and to support qualified early career researchers.

Accordingly, the resources of the prize have been used to realize these main objectives: the advancement of cutting-edge technology for the analysis of organic molecules in complex marine samples and the specific promotion of technical and scientific assistants. With support of the University, four main areas have been improved and developed:

(A) Extension of molecular-isotopic analytics and implementation of novel approaches

(B) Establishment of a laboratory for the cultivation of microorganisms

(C) Establishment of a radiotracer laboratory for the quantification of biogeochemical processes in marine ecosystems

(D) Personnel development of the research group with a focus on the promotion of  junior scientists

The overall aim - to expand the profound expertise of the Hinrichs Lab in specific areas of organic geochemistry and to develop new fields of research - has been implemented successfully. This can be seen e.g. in the facilities of laboratories and the following list of publications that acknowledge the support of the Leibniz Prize.



since 2021

Zhu, Q.Z., Elvert, M., Meador, T.B., Doeana, K., Becker, K., Elling, F., Lipp, J., Heuer, V., Zabel, M., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2024) Comprehensive molecular-isotopic characterization of archaeal lipids in the Black Sea water column and underlying sediments. Geobiology, 22, e12589.  doi:10.1111/gbi.12589

Zhu, Q.-Z., Wegener, G., Hinrichs, K.-U., and Elvert, M. (2022) Activity of ancillary heterotrophic community members in anaerobic methane-oxidizing cultures. Frontiers in Microbiology, 13:912299. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2022.912299 

Zhu, Q.-Z., Elvert, M., Meador, T.B., Becker, K.W., Heuer, V.B., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2021) Stable carbon isotopic compositions of archaeal lipids as a gauge to constrain terrestrial, planktonic, and benthic sources in marine sediments. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 307, 319-337.  doi:10.1016/j.gca.2021.04.037  


Coffinet, S., Meador, T.B., Mühlena, L., Becker, K.W., Schröder, J., Zhu, Q.-Z., Lipp, J.S., Heuer, V.B., Crump, M.P., and Hinrichs, K.U. (2020) Structural elucidation and environmental distributions of butanetriol and pentanetriol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers (BDGTs and PDGTs). Biogeosciences 17, 317-330. doi:10.5194/bg-17-317-2020  

Heuer, V.B., Inagaki, F., Morono, Y., Kubo, Y., Spivack, A.J., Viehweger, B., Treude, T., Beulig, F., Schubotz, F., Tonai, S., Bowden, S.A., Cramm, M., Henkel, S., Hirose, T., Homola, K., Hoshino, T., Ijiri, A., Imachi, H., Kamiya, N., Kaneko, M., Lagostina, L., Manners, H., McClelland, H.-L., Metcalfe, K., Okutsu, N., Pan, D., Raudsepp, M.J., Sauvage, J., Tsang, M.-Y., Wang, D.T., Whitaker, E., Yamamoto, Y., Yang, K., Maeda, L., Adhikari, R.R., Glombitza, C., Hamada, Y., Kallmeyer, J., Wendt, J., Wörmer, L., Yamada, Y., Kinoshita, M., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2020) Temperature limits to deep subseafloor life in the Nankai Trough subduction zone. Science, 370, 1230-1234.  doi:10.1126/science.abd7934 

Ma, C., Coffinet, S., Lipp, J.S., Hinrichs, K.-U., and Zhang, C. (2020) Marine Group II Euryarchaeota contribute to the archaeal lipid pool in Northwestern Pacific Ocean surface waters. Frontiers in Microbiology, 11.1034. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2020.01034 

Meador, T.B., Schoffelen, N., Ferdelman, T.G., Rebello, O., Khachikyan, A., and Könneke, M. (2020) Carbon recycling efficiency and phosphate turnover by marine nitrifying archaea. Science Advances, 6(19), eaba1799.  doi:10.1126/sciadv.aba1799

Probst, A.J., Elling, F.J., Castelle, C.J., Zhu, Q., Elvert, M., Birarda, G., Holman, H.-Y., Lane, K.R., Ladd, B., Ryan, M.C., Woyke, T., Hinrichs, K.-U., and Banfield, J.F. (2020) Lipid analysis of CO2-rich subsurface aquifers suggests an autotrophy-based deep biosphere with lysolipids enriched in CPR bacteria. The ISME Journal, 14, 1547-1560. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41396-020-0624-4   

Wu, W., Meador, T.B., Könneke, M., Elvert, M., Wegener, G., and Hinrichs, K.U. (2020) Substrate-dependent incorporation of carbon and hydrogen for lipid biosynthesis by Methanosarcina barkeri. Environmental Microbiology Reports, 12, 555-567. doi:10.1111/1758-2229.12876

Xu, Y., Wu, W., Xiao, W., Ge, H., Wei, Y., Yin, X., Yao, H., Lipp, J.S., Pan, B., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2020) Intact ether lipids in trench sediments related to archaeal community and environmental conditions in the deepest ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 125, e2019JG005431. doi:10.1029/2019JG005431  


Aepfler, R.F., Bühring, S.I., and Elvert, M. (2019) Substrate characteristic bacterial fatty acid production based on amino acid assimilation and transformation in marine sediments. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 95 (10), fiz131. doi:10.1093/femsec/fiz131

Evans, T., Coffinet, S., Könneke, M., Lipp, J.S., Becker, K.W., Elvert, M., Heuer, V.B., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2019) Assessing the carbon assimilation and production of benthic archaeal lipid biomarkers using lipid-RIP. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 265, 431-442.  doi:10.1016/j.gca.2019.08.030

Imachi, H., Tasumi, E., Takaki, Y., Hoshino, T., Schubotz, F., Gan, S., Tu, T.-H., Saito, Y., Yamanaka, Y., Ijiri, A., Matsui, Y., Miyazaki, M., Morono, Y., Takai, K., Hinrichs, K.-U., and Inagaki, F. (2019) Cultivable microbial community in 2-km-deep, 20-million-year-old subseafloor coalbeds through ~1000 days anaerobic bioreactor cultivation. Scientific Reports, 9:2305. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-38754-w  


Becker, K.W., Elling, F.J., Schröder, J.M., Lipp, J.S., Goldhammer, T., Zabel, M., Elvert, M., Overmann, J., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2018) Isoprenoid quinones resolve the stratification of microbial redox processes in a biogeochemical continuum from the photic zone to deep anoxic sediments of the Black Sea. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 84: e02736-17. doi:10.1128/AEM.02736-17 

Evans, T.W., Könneke, M., Lipp, J.S., Adhikari, R.R., Taubner, H., Elvert, M., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2018) Lipid biosynthesis of Nitrosopumilus maritimus dissected by lipid specific radioisotope probing (lipid-RIP) under contrasting ammonium supply. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 242, 51-63. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2018.09.001

Gruen, D.S., Wang, D.T., Könneke, M., Topçuoğlu, B.D., Stewart, L.C., Goldhammer, T., Holden, J.F., Hinrichs, K.-U., and Ono, S. (2018) Experimental investigation on the controls of clumped isotopologue and hydrogen isotope ratios in microbial methane. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 237, 339-356. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2018.06.029

Hurley, S.I., Lipp, J.S., Close, H.G., Hinrichs, K.-U., and Pearson, A. (2018) Distribution and export of isoprenoid tetraether lipids in suspended particulate matter from the water column of the Western Atlantic Ocean. Organic Geochemistry, 116, 90-102.  doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2017.11.010

Yu,T., Wu, W., Liang, W., Lever, M.A., Hinrichs, K-U., and Wang, F. (2018) Growth of sedimentary Bathyarchaeota on lignin as an energy source. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115, 6022-6027. doi:10.1073/pnas.1718854115


Elling, F., Könneke, M., Nicol, G.W., Stieglmeier, M., Bayer, B., Spieck, E., de la Torre, J.R., Becker, K.W., Thomm, M., Prosser, J.I., Herndl, G.J., Schleper, C., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2017) Chemotaxonomic characterization of the thaumarchaeal lipidome. Environmental Microbiology, 19, 2681-2700. doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13759

Evans, T.W., Wörmer, L., Lever, M.A., Lipp, J.S., Lagostina, L., Lin, Y-S., Jørgensen, B.B., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2017) Size and composition of subseafloor microbial community in the Benguela upwelling area examined from intact membrane lipid and DNA analysis. Organic Geochemistry, 111, 86-100. doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2017.06.008

Huguet, A., Meador, T.B., Laggoun-Défarge, F., Könneke, M., Wu, W., Derenne, S., and Hinrichs, K-U. (2017) Production rates of bacterial tetraether lipids and fatty acids in peatland under varying oxygen concentrations. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 203, 103-116. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2017.01.012

Meador, T.B., Goldenstein, N.I., Gogou, A., Herut, B., Psarra, S., Tsagaraki,  T.M., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2017) Planktonic lipidome responses to aeolian dust input in low-biomass oligotrophic marine mesocosms. Frontiers in Marine Science, 4, 113. doi:10.3389/fmars.2017.00113


Becker, K.W., Elling, F.J., Yoshinaga, M.Y., Söllinger, A., Urich, T., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2016) Unusual butane- and pentanetriol-based tetraether lipids in Methanomassiliicoccus luminyensis, a representative of the seventh order of methanogens. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 82, 4505-4516. doi:10.1128/AEM.00772-16

Elling, F.J., Becker, K.W., Könneke, M., Schröder, J.M., Kellermann, M.Y., Thomm, M., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2016) Respiratory quinones in Archaea: phylogenetic distribution and application as biomarkers in the marine environment. Environmental Microbiology, 18, 692-707. doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13086

Glombitza, C., Adhikari, R.R., Riedinger, N., Gilhooly, W.P. III, Hinrichs, K.-U., and Inagaki, F. (2016) Microbial sulfate reduction potential in coal-bearing sediments down to ~2.5 km below the seafloor off Shimokita peninsula, Japan. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7:1576. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.01576

Golyshina, O.V., Lünsdorf, H., Kublanov, I.V., Goldenstein, N.I., Hinrichs, K.-U., and Golyshin, P.N. (2016) The novel, extremely acidophilic, cell wall-deficient archaeon Cuniculiplasma divulgatum gen. nov., sp. nov. represent a new family of Cuniculiplasmataceae fam. nov., order Thermoplasmatales. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, 66, 332-340. doi:10.1099/ijsem.0.000725

Hurley, S.J., Elling, F.J., Könneke, M., Buchwald, C., Wankel, S.D., Santoro, A.E., Lipp, J.S., Hinrichs, K.-U., and Pearson, A. (2016) Influence of ammonia oxidation rate on thaumarchaeal lipid composition and the TEX86 temperature proxy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113 (28), 7762-7767. doi:10.1073/pnas.1518534113

Kellermann, M.Y., Yoshinaga, M.Y., Valentine, R.C., Wörmer, L., Valentine, D.L. (2016) Important roles for membrane lipids in haloarchaeal bioenergetics. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 1858, 2940-2956. doi:10.1016/j.bbamem.2016.08.010

Liu, X.-L., Birgel, D., Elling, F.J., Sutton, P.A., Lipp, J.S., Zhu, R., Zhang, C., Könneke, M., Peckmann, J., Rowland, S.J., Summons, R.E., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2016) From ether to acid: a plausible degradation pathway of glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraethers. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 183, 138-152. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2016.04.016

Widderich, N., Czech, L., Elling, F.J., Könneke, M., Stöveken, N., Pittelkow, M., Riclea, R., Dickschat, J.S., Heider, J., and Bremer, E. (2016) Strangers in the archaeal world: osmostress-responsive biosynthesis of ectoine and hydroxyectoine by the marine thaumarchaeon Nitrosopumilus maritimus. Environmental Microbiology, 18, 1227-1248. doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13156

Yao, M., Elling, F.J., Jones, CA., Nomosatryo, S., Long, C.P., Crowe, S.A., Antoniewicz, M.R., Hinrichs, K.-U., and Maresca, J.A. (2016) Heterotrophic bacteria from an extremely phosphate-poor lake have conditionally reduced phosphorus demand and utilize diverse sources of phosphorus. Environmental Microbiology, 18, 656-667. doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13063

Zhu, R., Versteegh, G.J., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2016) Detection of microbial biomass in subseafloor sediment by pyrolysis–GC/MS. Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis, 118, 175-180. doi:10.1016/j.jaap.2016.02.002

Zhu, C., Wakeham, S.G., Elling, F.J., Basse, A., Mollenhauer, G., Versteegh, G.J.M., Könneke, M., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2016) Stratification of archaeal membrane lipids in the ocean and implication for adaptation and chemotaxonomy of planktonic archaea. Environmental Microbiology, 18, 4324-4336. doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13289


Beulig, F., Heuer, V.B., Akob, D.M., Viehweger, B., Elvert, M., Herrmann, M., Hinrichs, K.-U., and Küsel, K. (2015) Carbon flow from volcanic CO2 into soil microbial communities of a wetland mofette. The ISME Journal, 9, 746-759. doi:10.1038/ismej.2014.148

Elling, F.J., Könneke, M., Mußmann, M., Greve, A., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2015) Influence of temperature, pH, and salinity on membrane lipid composition and TEX86 of marine planktonic thaumarchaeal isolates. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 171, 238-255. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2015.09.004

Lü, X., Liu, X.-L., Elling, F.J., Yang, H., Xie, S., Song, J., Li, X., Yuan, H., Li, N., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2015) Hydroxylated isoprenoid GDGTs in Chinese coastal seas and their potential as a paleotemperature proxy for mid-to-low latitude marginal seas. Organic Geochemistry, 89-90, 31-43. doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2015.10.004

Meador, T.B., Bowles, M., Lazar, C., Zhu, C., Teske, A., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2015) The archaeal lipidome in estuarine sediment dominated by members of the Miscellaneous Crenarchaeotal Group. Environmental Microbiology, 17, 2441-2458. doi:10.1111/1462-2920.12716

Otte, J., Mall, A., Schubert, D.M., Könneke, M., and Berg, I.A. (2015) Malonic semialdehyde reductase from the archaeon Nitrosopumilus maritimus, an enzyme involved in the autotrophic 3-hydroxypropionate/4-hydroxybutyrate cycle. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 81, 1700-1707. doi:10.1128/AEM.03390-14

Wang, D.T., Gruen, D.S., Sherwood Lollar, B., Hinrichs, K.-U., Stewart, L.C., Holden, J.F., Hristov, A.N., Pohlman, J.W., Morrill, P.L., Könneke, M., Delwiche, K.B., Reeves, E.P., Sutcliffe, C.N., Ritter, D.J., Seewald, J.S., McIntosh, J.C., Hemond, H.F., Kubo, M.D., Cardace, D., Hoehler, T.M., and Ono, S. (2015) Nonequilibrium clumped isotope signals in microbial methane. Science, 348, 428-431. doi:10.1126/science.aaa4326

Yoshinaga, M.Y., Gagen, E.J., Wörmer, L., Broda, N.K., Meador, T.B., Wendt, J., Thomm, M., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2015) Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus modulates its membrane lipids in response to hydrogen and nutrient availability. Frontiers in Microbiology, 6, 5. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2015.00005


Elling, F.J., Könneke, M., Lipp, J.S., Becker, K.W., Gagen, E.J., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2014) Effects of growth phase on the membrane lipid composition of the thaumarchaeon Nitrosopumilus maritimus and their implications for archaeal lipid distributions in the marine environment. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 141, 579-597. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2014.07.005

Könneke, M., Schubert, D.M., Brown, P.C., Hügler, M., Standfest, S., Schwander, T., Schada von Borzyskowski, L., Erb, T.J., Stahl, D.A., and Berg, I.A. (2014) Ammonia-oxidizing archaea use the most energy-efficient aerobic pathway for CO2 fixation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111, 8239-8244. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1402028111

Meador, T.B., Zhu, C., Elling, F.J., Könneke, M., and Hinrichs, K-U. (2014). Identification of isoprenoidglycosidic glycerol dibiphytanoldiethers and indications for their biosynthetic origin. Organic Geochemistry, 69, 70-75. doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2014.02.005

Probst, A.J., Weinmaier, T., Raymann, K., Perras, A., Emerson, J.B., Rattei, T., Wanner, G., Klingl, A., Berg, I.A., Yoshinaga, M., Viehweger, B., Hinrichs, K.-U., Thomas, B.C., Meck, S., Auerbach, A.K., Heise, M., Schintlmeister, A., Schmid, M., Wagner, M., Gribaldo, S., Banfield, J.F., and Moissl-Eichinger, C. (2014) Biology of a widespread uncultivated archaeon that contributes to carbon fixation in the subsurface. Nature Communications, 5:5497. doi:10.1038/ncomms6497

Zhu, R., Lin, Y.-S., Lipp, J.S., Meador, T.B., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2014) Optimizing sample pretreatment for compound-specific stable carbon isotopic analysis of amino sugars in marine sediment. Biogeosciences, 11, 4869-4880. doi:10.5194/bg-11-4869-2014


Zhu, R., Evans, T.W., Wörmer, L., Lin, Y.-S., Zhu, C., and Hinrichs, K.-U. (2013) Improved sensitivity of sedimentary phospholipid analysis resulting from a novel extract cleanup strategy. Organic Geochemistry, 65, 46–52. doi: 10.1016/j.orggeochem.2013.10.002