Project Groups

Dr. Christian Kost

Experimental ecology and evolution

Our work focuses on the ecology and evolution of interactions among different individuals. In this context we are mainly interested in the conflicts of interest that arise from these interactions as well as potential routes to resolve them. In a multidisciplinary and strongly hypothesis-driven approach, we take advantage of the methodological tractability of bacterial model systems to experimentally test ecological and evolutionary theory. As such, our research draws together approaches from evolutionary biology, microbiology, molecular biology, analytical chemistry, population ecology, and bioinformatics. Current research themes are: 

  • Evolution and maintenance of mutualistic interactions
  • Coevolutionary dynamics of interacting species
  • Multilevel selection in bacterial plasmids
  • Genetics of adaptive evolution

PD Dr. Axel Mithöfer

Plant Defense Physiology

Plants successfully use inducible defense mechanisms to combat attacking organisms, such as herbivores and pathogens. Aggressor-derived signaling compounds stimulate any of such defense responses after recognition by the plant. Following signal perception, signal transduction pathways are activated - such as ion fluxes across the plasma membrane, intracellular calcium changes, formation of reactive oxygen intermediates, and lipid oxidation - that ultimately induce the plant defense reactions. Intriguing questions arising from these observations are (i) what are the signaling compounds that initiate plant defenses, (ii) how are the signal transduction chains organized and what is their nature, and (iii) how are different defenses regulated.

Dr. Antje Burse

Chemical defense of leaf beetles

In response to herbivores, plants produce a variety of natural compounds. Many beetle species have developed ingenious strategies to cope with these substances, including colonizing habitats not attractive for other organisms. The defensive chemistry of chrysomelids, especially of larvae belonging to the subtribe Chrysomelina, constitutes an excellent model system to evaluate the co-evolutionary processes leading to adaptation of insect and plant. Most of the Chrysomelina species are highly specialized in their feeding habit and qualitative analyses of their defensive secretion revealed three levels of host plant dependence: full, partial, or lack of dependence. The aim of our research is to understand the development of these three different stages with emphasis on the molecular mechanisms underlying the transitions between them.