Master/Diploma Projects in Insect Molecular Ecology

The Department of Molecular Ecology at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (Head: Prof. Ian Baldwin) invites applications for Master/Diploma Projects in insect molecular ecology. The positions are available immediately and open until filled.

Project description: Nicotiana attenuata (Solanaceae) produces various defense chemicals in response to attack from its specialist herbivore, Manduca sexta (Lepidoptera). Although these defense chemicals retard the growth and development of M. sexta, the larvae usually survive, which means that M. sexta has evolved unknown mechanisms to tolerate and/or detoxify the xenobiotics of its host plant. In order to understand these detoxification/tolerance responses, we conducted a microarray based study. The midgut transcriptome of M. sexta feeding on wild type N. attenuata plant was compared to that of M. sexta feeding on transgenic plants, which were impaired in the production of at least one of the defense metabolites. We found that in response to each defense compound, one or few M. sexta genes were upregulated. To discover the mode of action of each of these candidate genes, we use a reverse genetics approach, wherein the candidate gene is silenced using ‘plant mediated RNA interference’. M. sexta larvae silenced for a particular candidate gene are fed on the wild type or the inducer-compound deficient N. attenuata plants and are studied for their behavioral, metabolomic and transcriptional responses.

We are looking for motivated Master/Diploma students (biology/ biotechnology/ biochemistry/ zoology/ botany) having strong interests in insect-plant interactions.

Methods involved in the proposed project:

  • Virus induced plant and insect gene silencing (includes DNA Cloning, PCR, QRT-PCR, DNA and RNA blotting)
  • Proteomics (Native and SDS PAGE, 2D gel electrophoresis of proteins)
  • HPLC, LC-MS, LC-TOF and GC-MS based chemical analyses

Dr. Sagar Pandit
Department of Molecular Ecology
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Hans-Knöll-Straße 8
D-07745 Jena
Homepage: http://www/ext/itb-groups.html#c1746
Email: spandit [at]