Jason E. Heindl, PhD

Jason Heindl

Jason E. Heindl PhD

Assistant Professor of Biology


BA (Biology), Amherst College

PhD (Microbiology and Molecular Genetics), Harvard University

Postdoctoral Fellowship (Prokaryotic Development), Indiana University

Research Interests

  • Microbiology and cell biology
  • Prokaryotic development
  • Bacterial surface attachment, biofilm formation, and multicellularity
  • Microbe-host and microbe-environment interactions
  • Intracellular and intercellular signaling

I mentor undergraduate and graduate students interested in doing laboratory and/or library research in microbial cell and developmental biology.


We study several aspects of bacterial cell biology, development, and ecology, primarily using the Alphaproteobacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens. A. tumefaciens is a plant pathogen that causes crown gall disease and is a common member of the soil microbiome. A. tumefaciens interacts with plant roots in a multicellular association called a biofilm. Gall formation is mediated by a remarkable interkingdom gene transfer event mediated by the bacterium’s type IV secretion system.

A. tumefaciens exhibits profound yet subtle asymmetries. One example of these asymmetries is most obvious during surface interactions. A. tumefaciens attaches to surfaces by one pole where a polysaccharide adhesin localizes in response to surface contact. In addition to this adhesin several other structures localize exclusively or predominantly to one pole of the bacterium. The mechanism by which this polarity is generated and maintained is not fully understood and is a focus of the lab.

During cell division a second aspect of A. tumefaciens’ asymmetric development becomes apparent. Each division event produces two genetically identical yet phenotypically distinct cell types. One cell type, the mother cell, appears terminally differentiated, continuously dividing and producing daughter cells. Each daughter cell, however, transits through a complex developmental program before being able to differentiate into a mother cell. The regulatory program underlying this transition is the coordination of division and development (CDD) pathway. The biological components, environmental inputs, and molecular mechanisms integrated into this pathway are an abiding interest of the lab.

We utilize diverse methods in bacterial genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry to explore these interests. We predict that results obtained with A. tumefaciens will be applicable to a wide range of related bacteria, including human pathogens (e.g. B. abortus), nitrogen-fixing plant symbionts (e.g. S. meliloti), and free-living oligotrophs (e.g. C. crescentus), among others. Thus our research has broad implications for human, animal, plant, and environmental health.

Selected Scholarly Activity

Heindl, J.E., Buechlein, A., and C. Fuqua. “The Intersection of Cyclic-di-GMP and a Cell Division Kinase Homologue Regulates Adhesion in Agrobacterium tumefaciens.” Manuscript in preparation.

Wang Y., Kim S.H., Natarajan R., Heindl J.E., Bruger E.L., Waters C.M., Michael A.J., and Fuqua C. “Spermidine inversely influences surface interactions and planktonic growth in Agrobacterium tumefaciens. J. Bactriol. In Press. (2016)

Heindl J.E.*, Hibbing M.E.*, Xu J., Natarajan R., Buechlein A.M., and Fuqua C. “Discrete responses to limitation for iron and manganese in Agrobacterium tumefaciens: Influence on attachment and biofilm formation.” J. Bacteriol. 198(5):816-29. *equal contribution (2016)

Yi, C.R., Allen, J.E., Russo, B., Lee, S.Y., Heindl, J.E., Baxt, L.A., Herrera, B.B., Kahoud, E., MacBeath, G., and M.B. Goldberg. “Systematic Analysis of Bacterial Effector-Postsynaptic Density 95/Discs Large/Zonula Occludens-1 (PDZ) Interactions Demonstrates Shigella OspE Promotes PKC Activation via PDLIM Proteins.” J. Biol. Chem. 289(43):30101-30113. (2014)

Heindl, J.E., Wang, Y., Heckel, B.C., Mohari, B., Feirer, N., and C. Fuqua. “Mechanisms and Regulation of Surface Interactions and Biofilm Formation in Agrobacterium.” Front. Plant Sci. 5:176. (2014)

Zan, J., Heindl, J.E., Liu, Y., Fuqua, C., and R.T. Hill. “The CckA-ChpT-CtrA Phosphorelay System Is Regulated by Quorum Sensing and Controls Flagellar Motility in the Marine Sponge Symbiont Ruegeria sp. KLH11”. PLoS One. 8(6):e66346. (2013)

Kim, J.*, Heindl, J.E.*, and C. Fuqua. “Coordination of Division and Development Influences Complex Multicellular Behavior in Agrobacterium tumefaciens.” PLoS One. 8(2):e56682. * equal contribution (2013)

Heindl, J.E., Saran, I., Yi, C., Lesser, C.F., and M.B. Goldberg. “Requirement for Formin-induced Actin Polymerization during Spread of Shigella flexneri.” Infect. Immun. 78:193-203. * Selected as a Spotlight article in Infect. Immun. and for the Journal Highlights section of the February 2010 issue of Microbe. (2010)

Wagner, J.K., Heindl, J.E., Gray, A.N., Jain, S., and M.B. Goldberg. “Contribution of the Periplasmic Chaperone Skp to Efficient Presentation of the Autotransporter IcsA on the Surface of Shigella flexneri.” J. Bacteriol. 191:815-821. (2009)

Professional Information

United States Peace Corps Volunteer (Secondary Education Science Teacher), Ghana

Contact Information

Office location: McNeil STC, Room 275
Mailing address: Box #38
University of Sciences
600 South 43rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4495
Office Phone: 215-596-7423

j [dot] heindl [at] usciences [dot] edu