Rebekka Sontowski


Research focus


Microbes play important roles in the biology and physiology of insects, and endosymbionts may even trigger speciation events. Some Neuroptera species carry two widespread bacterial endosymbionts, Rickettsia and Wolbachia. Whereas the biology of Wolbachia is well understood, non-pathogenic forms of Rickettsia are barely investigated. Rickettsia is a common intracellular bacterium that has been found in vertebrates, arthropods as well as in unicellular eukaryotes. All vertebrate-associated species are transmitted by arthropods and are known to cause diseases in mammals. Data on the other groups, found in various invertebrates, are very limited. The common green lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) is frequently used in the biological control of agricultural pests, such as aphids and mealy bugs. In an initial screening, we detected the endosymbiont Rickettsia in the common green lacewing. So far, the impact of Rickettsia on lace wing biology has not been studied and it is unclear if the bacteria are transmitted vertically or acquired from the environment. Using a comparative genomic approach we aim at characterizing the Rickettsia genome from Chrysoperla carnea to infer possible life history traits from the absence/presence of gene networks. Moreover, we want to compare transposable elements and phages within pathogenic Rickettsia strains to get insights in possible routes of horizontal gene transfer in these bacteria. Furthermore, we will use laboratory cultures of lacewings to establish whether and at which rate Rickettsia is transmitted from females to their offspring. The results thus will be a first step in characterizing Rickettsia interaction and impact on this economically important arthropod.

This project is part of CRC ChemBioSys (CRC-1127, DFG). 



Rickettsiales, ecological agriculture pest control, vertical transmission, endosymbiont

Short CV


2015 - now

Student helper in the group of Prof. Dr. Nicole van Dam (Molecular Interaction Ecology)

2013 – 2015

Master in biology at the University of Leipzig

  • Master thesis „Molekulare und experimentelle Untersuchungen zur Symbiose von Rickettsia-Endosymbionten mit ihren Florfliegenwirten“

2010 – 2013

Bachelor in biology at the University of Leipzig

  • Bachelor thesis „Untersuchung zum Vorkommen von Wolbachia bei verschiedenen Taxa der Insekten“



Touw, A., Verdecia-Mogena, A., Maedicke, A., Sontowski, R., van Dam, N. M., Tsunoda, T.

(2020):Both Biosynthesis and Transport Are Involved in Glucosinolate Accumulation During Root-Herbivory in Brassica rapa.Frontiers in Plant Science 10 *

Gerth, M., Wolf, R., Bleidorn, C., Richter, J., Sontowski, R., Unrein, J., Schlegel, M., Gruppe, A.

(2017):Green lacewings (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae) are commonly associated with a diversity of rickettsial endosymbionts.Zoological Letters 3(1), 12

Aguado, M. T., Richter, S., Sontowski, R., Golombek, A., Struck, T. H., Bleidorn, C.

(2016):Syllidae mitochondrial gene order is unusually variable for Annelida.Gene 594(1), 89-96
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Deutscher Platz 5e
04103 Leipzig

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+49 341 9733169
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Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

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