Profile – Birgit Scharf



Birgit Scharf

Job Title:

Associate Professor


Phone Number:



Google Scholar Profile


1983-1989       Diploma (Masters) in Biology, Ruhr-University, Bochum and Max-Planck-
Institute, Dortmund, Germany; Advisors: Dr. Benno Hess/Dr. Martin Engelhard
Master’s Thesis: Experiments towards the isolation and characterization of the
photoreceptor sR-II from the Halobacterium halobium – mutant D1

1989-1992       Ph.D. in Biology, Ruhr-University Bochum and Max-Planck-Institute Dortmund, Germany; Advisors: Dr. Benno Hess/Dr. Martin Engelhard
Ph.D. Dissertation: Comparable analysis of sensory rhodopsin II from Halobacterium halobium and Natronobacterium pharaonis, and characterization of halocyanin, the first blue copper protein from archaea.

1998-2003       Habilitation (Higher Degree post-doctoral lecturing qualification) in Genetics, University Regensburg, Germany
Habilitation Dissertation: Elements of sensory signaling chains from archaea and bacteria.

Professional experience
1987-1989       Diploma (Master’s) Student, Max-Planck-Institute Dortmund, Germany
Advisors: Dr. Benno Hess/Dr. Martin Engelhard
1989-1992       Graduate Student, Max-Planck-Institute Dortmund, Germany
Advisors: Dr. Benno Hess/Dr. Martin Engelhard
1992-1993       Postdoctoral Fellow, Max-Planck-Institute Dortmund, Germany,
Advisor: Dr. Martin Engelhard
1994-1998       Postdoctoral Fellow, MCB, Harvard University
Dr. Howard C. Berg
1998-2000       Postdoctoral Fellow, Biology, University of Regensburg, Germany
Dr. Rüdiger Schmitt
2000-2007       Group Leader, Biology, University of Regensburg, Germany,
2007-2008       Visiting Scientist, MCB, Harvard University,
2008-2015       Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech
2008-present    Associate Professor, Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech

1993    Otto-Hahn Prize of the Max-Planck-Society
2007-2008       Visiting Scientist, German Research Association
2012    Outstanding Service Award, Department of Biological Sciences, VT
2013    Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor, Dept. of Biol. Sciences, VT
2013    Outreach Excellence Award, College of Science, VT, as member of the
Microbiology Outreach Team with Drs. A. Stevens, R. Seyler, and F. Schubot

Research Areas:

  • Bacterial motility and chemotaxis

Current N-related Projects:


V. Sourjik, Muschler P., Scharf B., Schmitt R. (2000) VisN and VisR are global regulators of chemotaxis, flagellar, and motility genes in Sinorhizobium (Rhizobium) meliloti. Journal of Bacteriology 182, 782-788.

H. Riepl, Scharf B., Schmitt R., Kalbitzer H.R., Maurer T. (2001) Letter to the editor: Sequential assignment and secondary structure of the 14 kDa chemotactic protein CheY2 from Sinorhizobium meliloti. Journal of Biomolecular NMR 19, 287-288.

B. Scharf, Schuster-Wolff-Bühring H., Rachel R., Schmitt R. (2001) Mutational analysis of the Rhizobium lupini H13-3 and Sinorhizobium meliloti flagellin genes: Importance of flagellin A for flagellar filament structure and transcriptional regulation. Journal of Bacteriology 183, 5334-5342.

B. Scharf (2002) Real-time imaging of fluorescent flagellar filaments of Rhizobium lupini H13-3: Flagellar rotation and pH-induced polymorphic transitions. Journal of Bacteriology 184, 5979-5986.

B. Scharf & Schmitt R. (2002) Sensory transduction to the flagellar motor of Sinorhizobium meliloti. Journal of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology 4, 183-186.

H. Riepl, Scharf B., Schmitt R., Maurer T., Kalbitzer H.R. (2004) Solution structures of the inactive and BeF3-activated response regulator CheY2. Journal of Molecular Biology 338, 287-297. [cited in faculty of 1000]

E. Eggenhofer, Haslbeck M., Scharf B. (2004) MotE serves as a new chaperone specific for the periplasmic motility protein, MotC, in Sinorhizobium meliloti. Molecular Microbiology 52, 701-712.

U. Attmannspacher, Scharf B., Schmitt R. (2005) Control of speed modulation (chemokinesis) in the unidirectional rotary motor of Sinorhizobium meliloti. Molecular Microbiology 56, 708-718.

E. Eggenhofer, Rachel R., Haslbeck M., Scharf B. (2006) MotD of Sinorhizobium meliloti and related -proteobacteria is the flagellar hook-length regulator and therefore re-assigned as FliK. Journal of Bacteriology 188, 2144-2153.

C. Rotter, Mühlbauer S., Schmitt R., Scharf B. (2006) Rem, a new transcriptional regulator of the flagellar regulon in Sinorhizobium meliloti. Journal of Bacteriology 188, 6932-6942.

V.M. Meier, Muschler P., Scharf B.E. (2007) Functional analysis of nine putative chemoreceptor proteins in Sinorhizobium meliloti. Journal of Bacteriology 189, 1816-1826.

H. Riepl, Maurer T., Kalbitzer H.R., Meier V.M., Schmitt R., Scharf B. (2008) Interaction of CheY2 and CheY2-P with the cognate CheA kinase in the chemosensory-signalling chain of Sinorhizobium meliloti. Molecular Microbiology 69, 1373-1384.

V.M. Meier and B.E. Scharf (2009) Cellular localization of predicted transmembrane and soluble chemoreceptors in Sinorhizobium meliloti. Journal of Bacteriology 191, 5724-33.

G. Dogra, Purschke F.G., Wagner V., Haslbeck M., Kriehuber T., Hughes J.G., Van Tassell M.L., Gilbert C., Niemeyer M., Ray W.K., Helm R.F., Scharf B.E. (2012) Sinorhizobium meliloti CheA complexed with CheS exhibits enhanced binding to CheY1 resulting in accelerated CheY1-P dephosphorylation. Journal of Bacteriology 194, 1075-1087.
[cited in faculty of 1000]

D. Wibberg, Blom J., Rückert C., Winkler A., Albersmeier A., Pühler A., Schlüter A., Scharf B.E. (2013) Draft genome sequence of Sinorhizobium meliloti RU11/001, a model organism for flagellum structure, motility and chemotaxis. Journal of Biotechnology 168(4), 731-733.

H.M. Zatakia, Nelson C.E., Syed U.J., Scharf B.E. (2014) ExpR coordinates the expression of symbiotically important, bundle-forming Flp pili with quorum sensing in Sinorhizobium meliloti. Applied & Environmental Microbiology 80(8), 2429-2439.

B. Webb, Hildreth S., Helm R.F., Scharf B.E. (2014) Sinorhizobium meliloti chemoreceptor McpU mediates chemotaxis toward host plant exudates through direct proline sensing. Applied & Environmental Microbiology 80(11), 3404-3415.

M. Amin, Kothamachu V., Feliu E., Scharf B.E., Porter S.L., Soyer O.S. (2014) Phosphate sink containing two-component signaling systems as tunable threshold devices. PLOS Computational Biology 10(10), 1-11.

B.A. Webb, Helm R.F., Scharf B.E. (2016) Contribution of individual chemoreceptors to Sinorhizobium meliloti chemotaxis towards amino acids of host and non-host seed exudates. Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions 29(3), 231-239.

B.E. Scharf, Hynes M.F., Alexandre G.M. (2016) Chemotaxis signaling systems in model beneficial plant-bacteria associations. Plant Molecular Biology 90(6), 549-559.

B.A. Webb, Compton K.K., Saldaña R.C., Arapov T., Ray W.K., Helm R.F., Scharf B.E. (2017) Sinorhizobium meliloti chemotaxis to quaternary ammonium compounds is mediated by the chemoreceptor McpX. Molecular Microbiology 103(2), 333-346.

B.A. Webb, Compton K.K., Martin del Campo J.S., Taylor D., Sobrado P., Scharf B.E. (2017) Sinorhizobium meliloti chemotaxis to multiple amino acids is mediated by chemoreceptor McpU. Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions 30(10), 770-777.

H.M. Zatakia, Arapov T.D., Meier V.M., Scharf B.E. (2018) Cellular stoichiometry of methyl-accepting chemotaxis proteins in Sinorhizobium meliloti. Journal of Bacteriology, 200(6).