Bachelor/Master position in the Department of Entomology

We are looking for a student interested in doing his/her bachelor/master in the field of insect molecular biology. In our laboratories at the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Ecology you will be working in the Department of Entomology. You will work as part of the team “digestion in insects” focusing on plant cell wall degradation in phytophagous beetles. Our facilities provide modern equipment, frontier molecular techniques and equipment and an experienced team to work with. A more detailed project description is provided below. What we require from you is: the will and interest to work on the proposed project, to plan and execute your own experiments and the ability to evaluate your data (all under proper guidance).

Project description

In general:

For decades it was believed that microbial symbionts were the sole source of plant cell wall degrading enzymes in herbivorous animals. After the first finding of an animal-derived (endogenous) cellulase in a termite, this dogma broke as cellulose can be degraded by an animal without the help of microbes. This prime finding cleared a path to the progressive discovery of endogenous cellulases in various animal phyla e.g. arthropods and mollusks. However, endogenous cellulases still remain scarce throughout the animal kingdom and are still poorly investigated.

In a recent analysis of various phytophagous beetle transcriptomes we discovered a number of genes encoding enzymes of the glycoside hydrolase family (GH) 48. Members of the GH48 family are known to act as cellulose degrading enzymes but none were investigated so far in animals.  The general questions that arise are: Are they indeed true cellulases or have they evolved other functions? What is their evolutionary origin? Are they ancestral or have they been acquired through horizontal gene transfer? This project focuses on the research of the GH48 family by addressing the above mentioned questions. If you are interested please contact us under: s. below.

Abstract of techniques:

You will manually design primers based on transcriptomic data. You will use PCR-based cloning techniques in appropriate vectors and the resulting constructs will be used for heterologous expression in insect cell lines. You will use western blotting for detection of the recombinant protein followed by enzyme activity assays for qualitative and quantitative analyses. You will do cDNA synthesis followed up by quantitative expression analyses using qPCR. Also, there will be a bioinformatics part where you will generate a phylogeny of GH48s to evaluate whether a horizontal gene transfer occurred.

André Busch
Email:    abusch [at]       
Phone:    03641 57 1560

Starting from 01.11.2016 (negotiable)