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Information for Researchers No. 47 | 1 September 2014
Priority Programme “Phenotypic Heterogeneity and Sociobiology of Bacterial Populations” (SPP 1617)

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.

Proposals must be submitted via the DFG’s electronic submission system elan selecting “SPP 1617”. If you are using the elan system for the first time, please note that you need to register yourself and your institutional addresses before being able to submit a proposal. Also, if you are planning to move to a different institution (e.g. with a Temporary Position for Principal Investigators) you need to register the new institutional address beforehand. Please make sure that all applicants of your project (in case there is more than one) start their registration at the latest two weeks before the submission deadline. The registration requests are handled manually by DFG staff.

Please notice the rules for publication lists that have been modified recently: Beside the general bibliography every proposal should include a list of up to ten publications that relate directly to the project. Further, the number of publications that may be listed in any academic CV has been increased to up to ten as well. These publications need to be classified as a) refereed publications (published articles and monographs; accepted articles with note of acceptance by the journal) or b) other publications.

Proposals should be submitted not later than 1 December 2014. Please follow the guidelines for project submission according to forms 50.05 and 54.01 (German/English). Proposals will be evaluated in the course of a colloquium with talks and/or poster presentations on 12 March 2015 in Herrsching.

Further Information

The DFG’s electronic portal “elan” can be found at:

Proposal guidelines and preparation instructions are outlined in DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01, which can be found on the DFG’s website at:

For scientific enquiries please contact the Priority Programme’s coordinator:

  • Professor Dr. Kirsten Jung,
    Department of Biology I,
    Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München,
    phone: +49892180-74500,
    Link auf E-Mailjung@lmu.de

Further instructions on submitting a proposal are supplied by the DFG:

For scientific matters:

For administrative matters: