Current Research: Topics and Interests
I investigate the interdependency of Arabidopsis thaliana and Arabis alpina with microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, protozoa) at the metabolic level of both model plants. All free-living plants are colonized simultaneously by a multitude of microorganisms of very different taxonomic affiliation. All microbial endophytes must overcome plant defense systems, and - via reciprocal signal exchange with their host plants - likely target similar genetic control points. Currently it is still unclear how plants orchestrate the complex interaction of their many microbial mutualists and pathogens. The glucosinolate metabolism of Brassicaceae holds a central position for the communication between plants and microbial endophytes. I investigate how bacterial autoinducers (N-Acyl-Homoserine Lactones, AHLs), which are employed in quorum sensing systems in bacteria, affect the secondary metabolism of Brassicaceae, and the feedback of Brassicaceae mutants impaired in specific pathways of secondary metabolism and root exudation pattern on gene expression of microbial endophytes. My aim is to identify and to characterize the roles of specific plant and microbial signal molecules in these interactions.
In the framework of the Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences – CEPLAS –, my project is counted among the research area D, which concentrates on metabolic interactions.
In general, CEPLAS focuses exclusively on plant science and interlinks researchers of the University of Cologne, Heinrich-Heine University, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ) and Forschungszentrum Jülich.