The Bischofs lab studies complex adaptive traits (CATs) of stressed bacteria. Our goals are 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.

Our research specfically focuses on beneficial, spore-forming and industrially relevant Bacilli. We study the formation and the revival of endospores. We also investigate bacterial communication networks that regulate the production of stress-associated secondary metabolites which have beneficial effects on the lifes of plants, animals and humans. With our basic research findings we open up new ways to control bacterial populations and to engineer them for biotechnological applications.

The µCATs Lab is an independent Research Group of the MPI for Terrestrial Microbiology. We work in close collaboration with other groups from the BioQuant and Heidelberg University and also enjoy collaborating with external groups.

 Selected Publications

  • A. Mutlu, C. Kaspar, N. Becker and I. B. Bischofs
    A spore quality-quantity tradeoff favors diverse sporulation strategies in B. subtilis
    ISME J, 14, 2703-2714, 2020
  • H. Babel, P. Naranjo-Meneses, S. Trauth, S. Schulmeister, G. Malengo, V. Sourjik and I. B. Bischofs
    Ratiometric population sensing by a pump-probe signaling system in Bacillus subtilis
    Nature Communications 11, 1176, 2020
  • A. Mutlu, S. Trauth, M. Ziesack, K. Nagler, J. Bergeest, K. Rohr, N. Becker, T. Höfer and I. B. Bischofs
    Phenotypic memory in Bacillus subtilis links dormancy entry and exit by a spore quantity-quality tradeoff
    Nature Communications 9:69, 2018

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Contact: E-Mail (Last update: 08/12/2023)

Ilka Bischofs

Phone: +49 6221 54 51365
Email: ilka.bischofs(at)
BioQuant, INF 267, Room 602

Von den Grundlagen zur Anwendung

Ein Artikel im BioSpektrum beschreibt unsere Erkenntnisse zur Sporenbildung und deren Bedeutung für die Biotechnologie.

Research in collaborations

Bacillus subtilis releases methane. Surprised? Your body cells also release the greenhouse gas! Research by our former Master student Leo Ernst and PhD student Ben Steinfeld together with the labs of F. Keppler, D. Grimm, T. Dick and others explains how this happens.
Nature,, 2022

Funding News

The DFG funds our tandem project together with Karl Rohr on "Form-function relationships in B. subtilis fruiting body formation" in the framework of the SPP2389 on Bacterial Multicellularity.


Max Kilian and Svenja Schmelzer have rejoined the lab for their PhD.

Bastian Mucha has joined the lab.


Willem Fütterer has successfully defended his Bachelor thesis!