Research Group Plant Defense Physiology
Plants efficiently interact with their (a)biotic environment. They are able to recognize changes and react properly. The interactions with and reaction to insect herbivores is of our particular interest. We address the following questions: How are plants able to recognize an attack? How do they initiate local and systemic defenses? What is the nature of the defense reactions? What is the basis of plant-plant communication?
In plants, the molecular basis of the processes that are initiated upon an herbivorous insect attack is still not known. We propose that chemical signals such as herbivore- or damage-associated molecular patterns (HAMPs/DAMPs) are perceived by the plant and induce downstream signaling cascades that eventually mediate local and systemic defense reactions in distant tissues. Beyond such communication within the plant, the communication between neighboring plants is of special interest. The role of electrical signals, intracellular calcium concentration changes, phytohormones, and volatiles as signaling features that might be involved in such regulation processes is under investigation. Moreover, we analyze the contribution of wounding to the process of defense induction by employing the mechanical larva, Mecworm. Beside Arabidopsis, we work on the crop sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas).
In another project we are studying the „plant carnivorous syndrome“ in the pitcher plant Nepenthes. Although well-known and often described in literature and textbooks, the biochemistry and molecular biology of carnivory in plants are not well understood. To learn more about this fascinating phenomenon, we study the digestive process and its regulation. Our results suggest that plant carnivory evolved from plant defense.