04.05.2021 | MIE Group News

Alexander Krüger starts his MSc internship

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Alexander Krüger has joined the Molecular Interaction Ecology (MIE) group as a research assistant and to write his MSc thesis. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Bremen and is currently studying his Master in Evolution, Ecology and Systematics at the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.

Synthetic pesticides in agriculture are a threat not only to pests but also to important insects, such as pollinators. These compounds are one important cause of the decline of insects. To develop sustainable alternative strategies for pest management and to protect biodiversity, Alex strongly believes that the understanding of the biology and the ecological interactions of pest organisms with their host plants and their microbiome is needed.

The agricultural important plant family Brassicaceae evolved a defense mechanism by producing glucosinolates. These glucosinolates are hydrolyzed to toxic isothiocyanates, nitriles and further breakdown products through mechanical damage. However, some herbivores evolved counter mechanisms to this defense strategy. The larvae of Delia radicum, the cabbage root fly, and Delia floralis, the turnip root fly, are specialized on Brassica plant roots and adapted to the plant defenses. It is unclear whether the larvae themselves neutralize the plant defenses or if they rely on their gut microbiome for this process. Alex is highly interested in insect-microbe interactions and aims to answer this open question by examining the importance of gut microbes for the larvae. He will do so by studying the performance of the larvae with and without their gut microbiome. Additionally, he will look into the glucosinolate breakdown products that are produced by larvae or microbes and the expression of detoxification genes.

Alex is supervised and assisted by Rebekka Sontowski. The project is part ofCRC ChemBioSys (CRC-1127,DFG).

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