Rebekka Sontowski


Research focus


Toxins against herbivores are produced in a wide range of plants. The agricultural intensively used plant family Brassicaceae evolved a two-component defence system. It contains glucosinolates (GSL) which are hydrolysed to toxic isothiocynates (ITCs), nitriles and further breakdown products during herbivore damage. However, some herbivores such as the larvae of the cabbage (Delia radicum) and turnip root fly (D. floralis) have adapted to this defence system. The larvae of both species are specialists on GSL containing plants and mine into their roots. They cause large economical loss in crop productions. I’m interested in how the larvae of both fly species detoxify this plant defence system. My aim is to assess the breakdown products and detoxification enzymes which are involved in this process by using genomic, transcriptomic, chemical and experimental approaches. In addition, I want to know how important gut microbial communities are for the flies to detoxify the GSL-ITC system. 

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



Biological pest control, plant-insect interactions, detoxification mechanisms, microbe-host interactions, endosymbionts.

Short CV


December 2016 - now

PhD student in Molecular Interaction Ecology at the German Institute for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). Supervised by Prof. Dr. Nicole M. van Dam.

Project title: “It takes three to tango. Tripartite interaction between cabbage root flies, their gut microbiome and host plant defence compounds”.

 2015 - 2016

Research assistant at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv).

2013 – 2015

Master in biology at the Leipzig University

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

2010 – 2013

Bachelor in biology at the Leipzig University

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

Selected Publications


Sontowski R, Bleidorn C, Schlegel M, Gerth M (2015)  Wolbachia distribution in selected beetle taxa characterized by PCR screens and MLST data. Ecology and Evolution 5(19), 4345–4353. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.1641

iDiv publications


Sontowski, R., Poeschl, Y., Okamura, Y., Vogel, H., Guyomar, C., Cortesero, A.-M. and van Dam, N. M.

(2022): A high-quality functional genome assembly of Delia radicum L. (Diptera: Anthomyiidae) annotated from egg to adult. Molecular Ecology Resources

Sontowski, R., Guyomar, C., Poeschl, Y., Weinhold, A., van Dam, N. M. and Vassão, D. G.

(2022): Mechanisms of Isothiocyanate Detoxification in Larvae of Two Belowground Herbivores, Delia radicum and D. floralis (Diptera: Anthomyiidae). Frontiers in Physiology

Sontowski, R., M. Gerth, S. Richter, A. Gruppe, M. Schlegel, N. M. van Dam, C. Bleidorn

(2020): Infection Patterns and Fitness Effects of Rickettsia and Sodalis Symbionts in the Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea. Insects

Sontowski, R., van Dam, N. M.

(2020): Functional Variation in Dipteran Gut Bacterial Communities in Relation to Their Diet, Life Cycle Stage and Habitat. Insects

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

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

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
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Puschstrasse 4
04103 Leipzig

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+49 341 9733233
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Friedrich Schiller University Jena

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