Master thesis in the Department of Bioorganic Chemistry

Title: "Good taste in insects – Characterization of gustatory receptors in leaf beetles"

Background: Beetles represent the most species rich order of herbivorous insects on the planet. One important aspect for selecting specific host plants or finding mating partners are the beetle’s gustatory receptors (GRs). Despite the central role of GRs in the overall food intake, reproduction and survival of beetles, surprisingly little is known about the genes encoding GRs, the physiological mechanism of GRs and their impact on the feeding behavior. In this project, the poplar leaf beetle (Chrysomela populi) which specifically feeds on poplar leaves (Populus ssp.) will be used as model system to understand how poplar leaves and their secondary metabolites are sensed by GRs. Therefore, the student will investigate and characterize GRs of C. populi with state‐of‐the‐art biochemical and molecular biology methods such as RNA‐FISH for in situ localisation of GRs, analysis of gene expression via quantitative real‐time PCR and knock‐down of single GR genes via RNA interference to test the feeding behaviour of GR‐silenced beetles. The results will contribute to better understand fundamental insect‐plant interactions such as taste perception and host plant specialization in herbivorous beetles.

Methods: Next to biochemical standard methods (RNA extraction, PCR, molecular cloning, Enzyme assays tests) mainly state‐of‐the‐art techniques, e.g.: quantitative real‐time PCR, heterologous expression in insect cells, RNA interference, RNA‐FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization), Confocal laser scanning microscopy.

Target group: Master students in biochemistry, biology, chemistry, molecular biology, physiology, ecology or related life and natural science courses. Begin: summer/fall 2015.

Interested? Contact your future supervisors Dr. Antje Burse and Dr. Stefan Pentzold, Dept. of Bioorganic Chemistry, MPI for Chemical Ecology.

Email: aburse [at], spentzold [at]
Phone: +49 3641 57-1265
Twitter: @ChemEcolHerb