Scientist (f/m) / PhD position Coordination of Bacillus subtilis stress responses by cell-to-cell signaling

The µCATs lab of the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology is located at the BioQuant of the University of Heidelberg. The interdisciplinary research group studies how bacteria adapt to stresses that they experience in the environment, a host or a bioreactor. We focus on so called “complex adaptive traits” (CATs) and aim to understand, to control and to engineer such traits. Using tools from molecular biology, microscopy and mathematical modelling we investigate how signaling networks regulate CATs. We seek to reveal fundamental organizing principles that relate the molecular network design to population-level behavior and vice versa. This should facilitate rational manipulations of bacterial populations and the implementation of novel functionalities into “smart” communities in the future. In this project we focus on the peptide-signaling systems in the biotechnologically relevant model organism Bacillus subtilis. You will characterize novel regulatory network elements that we recently identified and study their function in coordinating the adaptive responses of the individual bacteria in the population. The mechanistic insight might then be harnessed to develop synthetic signaling components.


D. Wolf, V. Rippa, J.C. Mobarec, P.Sauer, L. Adlung, P. Kolb and I. B. Bischofs (2016)

The quorum sensing regulator ComA from Bacillus subtilis activates transcription using topologically distinct DNA motifs, Nucleic Acids Research 44, No.5, 2160-2172

H. Babel and I. B. Bischofs (2016) Molecular and cellular factors control signal transduction via switchable allosteric modulator proteins (SAMPs), BMC Systems Biology 10:35

M. Ackermann (2015) A functional perspective on phenotypic heterogeneity in microorganisms, Nature Reviews Microbiology 13, 497-508

S. Pande, S. Shitut, L. Freund, M. Westermann, F. Bertels, C. Colesie, I. B. Bischofs and C. Kost (2015) Metabolic cross-feeding via inter-cellular nanotubes among bacteria, Nature Communications 6: 6238

S. Trauth, I.B. Bischofs (2014) Ectopic Integration Vectors for Generating Fluorescent Promoter Fusions in Bacillus subtilis with Minimal Dark Noise, PLoS ONE 9(5) e98360



I.B. Bischofs, J. Hug, A. Liu, D.M. Wolf and A.P. Arkin (2009) Complexity in bacterial cell-cell communication: Quorum signal integration and subpopulation signaling in the B. subtilis phosphorelay, Proc. Nat. Acad. USA, 106(16), 6459-6464

Methods that will be used:

Genetic engineering of Bacillus subtilis, standard molecular biology techniques, standard biochemical assays, quantitative fluorescence microscopy, advanced single cell time-lapse microscopy, FRET.

Cooperation partners:

We are collaborating extensively locally (Uni HD & MPI for Terrestrial Microbiology), nationally and internationally and expect that applicants engage in interdisciplinary exchange and are open to travel to collaboration partners.

Personal qualifications:

Successful applicants should be highly motivated to conduct challenging, original and internationally competitive research at the interface of molecular microbiology, systems and synthetic biology. To complement the expertise of our current team a student with a strong background in molecular (micro)biology, genetics or biochemistry is preferred.


Deadline: 31. May 2017


Contact details: Bischofs, Ilka