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Unit of Plant Molecular Cell Biology


Research overview

Our research activities are mainly devoted to study cell biological phenomena in the context of plant-microbe interactions. In particular, we focus on the interactions between plants and powdery mildew fungi, obligate biotrophic ascomycetes that cause agrinomically relevant  diseases (Figure 1). One of our major interests is to unravel the cellular mechanisms of plant defence, but we are also interested in the molecular details of fungal pathogenicity.

Our lab employs a mixture of molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry, plant genetics and fungal genomics to pursue these goals. The main plant species used in our research projects are the dicotyledonous reference species, Arabidopsis thaliana, and the monocotyledonous cereal, barley (Hordeum vulgare). Accordingly, on the fungal side emphasis is given to powdery mildew species colonizing barley (Blumeria graminis f.sp. hordei) and Arabidopsis (Golovinomyces orontii).

Current research projects aim to address the following core questions:
  • What is the molecular basis of broad-spectrum mlo resistance?
  • What is the core biochemical function of MLO proteins?
  • What is the basis of fungal biotrophy?
  • What is the diversity of powdery mildew effectors?
  • What are the functions of powdery mildew effectors?
  • How do the effectors enter plant cells?

The joint weekly seminar ("progress report") of the plant science research groups takes place on Thursdays (8:15-9:15 h) in room (5)42A033. A list of the forthcoming speakers can be found here. Guests are highly welcome!

Useful links

A general introduction to the Arabidopsis-powdery mildew interaction can be found in The Arabidopsis Book

Powdery mildew genomes at the Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Köln

BluGen - The Blumeria genome sequencing project





Figure 1.
Barley mlo mutants are broad-spectrum resistant to powdery mildew. Phenotype of a susceptible (Mlo , left) and a mlo -resistant (right) barley genotype inoculated with Blumeria graminis f. sp. hordei K1 conidia and photographed at six days after inoculation.




Figure 2.
Epifluorescence micrograph of a barley cell expressing a DsRED-labelled peroxisomal protein. The bright little dots inside the cell mark (mobile) peroxisomes.




Figure 3.
Cell-autonomous complementation of mlo resistance by transient expression of a Mlo cDNA in a epidermal cell of a barley mlo genotype. Note the successful colonization of the transformed beta-glucuronidase marker gene expressing  (greenish) cell as evidenced by the formation of an intracellular haustorium and hyphal growth.