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Priority Programme Phenotypic Heterogeneity and Sociobiology of Bacterial Populations (SPP 1617)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established a Priority Programme on "Phenotypic Heterogeneity and Sociobiology of Bacterial Populations" (SPP 1617). The programme started in June 2012 and is designed to run for six years. Applications are now invited for the second three-year period of this Priority Programme.
This Priority Programme aims at the characterisation of the molecular mechanisms of bacterial phenotypic heterogeneity, the elucidation of its biological significance, and answering the question how evolution gave rise to genotypes that express diverse phenotypes.
To reach these goals, the combined effort from molecular microbiologists, experts on single-cell experimentation, and theoreticians is required. To elaborate a comprehensive model of the biological significance of phenotypic heterogeneity the projects shall concentrate on three different social strategies of bacteria: 1) communication and production of common goods, 2) division of labour, and 3) bet-hedging. Therefore, all model organisms of research proposals of the network should fulfil the following criteria:
- Bacteria should follow one out of the three strategies.
- Bacteria should be of medical, biotechnological or ecological interest.
- Bacteria should be accessible for genetic manipulations, and the genome sequence should be available.
Knowledge on the phenotypic heterogeneity and the principal components will be regarded as prerequisite for each biological research proposal to integrate modelling approaches from the very early stage of the projects. Likewise, modelling-centered proposals should aim for and incorporate proof-of-principle studies in living organisms. These requirements will ensure an active exchange and a truly interdisciplinary approach of all participants of the programme.
The projects should concentrate on the following research topics:
-Elucidation of the basic design principles responsible for phenotypic individuality.
-Quantitative analysis of the dynamics of the spatial and temporal distribution of cells with different phenotypes in growing populations.
-Quantitative analysis of isolated subpopulations with respect to metabolism, stress adaptation and energetics.
- Biological significance of heterogeneous populations.
All quantitative data shall be analysed and interpreted with the help of theoretical models. These models will also be an essential tool to put phenotypic heterogeneity in an evolutionary perspective, to study how selection under variable conditions in different environments shaped the interaction between single cells in a population.
The topic of phenotypic heterogeneity necessitates interdisciplinary approaches. The Priority Programme is intended to team up scientists from microbiology, physics, chemistry and mathematics. A clear intent on intense collaborations between experimentalists and theoreticians will be the prerequisite for each participating project.

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
Kennedyallee 40
53175 Bonn
Dr. Katharina Seiler
phone: +49228885-2342
Department of Biology I
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Professor Dr. Kirsten Jung
Phone: +49892180-74500
E-Mail: jung@lmu.de

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