Axel Touw

Wissenschaftlicher Gast

Research focus


Glucosinolates (GSLs) are a class of well-studied defence metabolites that are characteristic for brassicaceous plants. In line with optimal defense theory, GSL accumulation is highest in the most valuable plant organs, such as seeds, developing leaves and roots. However, interactions with pathogens, nematodes or insect herbivores can affect these patterns. In my project, I study how sink-manipulators such as nematodes and aphids possibly affect the allocation of GSLs over the plant. These organisms are able to create metabolic sinks at their feeding site, which redirects the flow of photosynthates, nutrients and possibly GSLs in their direction. In this way, sink-manipulators can have a profound effect on the performance of organisms sharing the same host-plant.  

I will use an integrative approach to study the effects of sink-manipulators on GSL allocation, which includes transcriptome, metabolome and performance assays. By performing a series of manipulative experiments, I will study the expression dynamics of GSL transporter and biosynthesis genes in local and systemic tissues. I will quantify and qualify the accumulation of GSLs in roots and leaf tissue and the resulting effects on the performance of above- and belowground herbivores and the plant itself.


This project is funded by iDiv (FZT-118, DFG).

Short CV


September 2018 – now

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

Project title: “The role of biosynthesis versus transport for glucosinolate allocation in response to aboveground and belowground sink manipulating herbivores”.

February – August 2018

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

February 2017 – January 2018

Research stipend (SFB 973) at the Freie Universität Berlin. Supervised by Prof. Dr. Anke Steppuhn.

Project title: "How do zoophytophagous predators affect plant resistance against different insect herbivores?".

November – December 2016

Research visit at the Democritus University of Thrace, Greece, hosted by Prof. Dr. George Broufas and Prof. Dr. Maria Pappas.

August – October 2016

Student assistant at the German Institute for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), assisting Dr. Ainhoa Martinez Medina.

September 2014 – August 2017

MSc Plant Sciences at Wageningen University & Research.

Thesis: “Unraveling the molecular and phytochemical key elements underlying the impact of root symbionts on plant multitrophic interactions” at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) in Leipzig. Supervised by Dr. Ainhoa Martinez-Medina.

Thesis: “Stressed out potatoes: can insects set the stage for Phytophthora infestans infection?” at the Department of Entomology, Wageningen UR. Supervised by Jenny Lazebnik and Prof. Dr. Joop van Loon.

September 2010 – August 2014

BSc Biology at Wageningen University & Research.

Thesis: “Detectability of the preferred host of Cortesia glomerata declines with increasing non-host densities” at the Department of Entomology, Wageningen UR. Supervised by Marjolein de Rijk and Dr. Erik Poelman.

iDiv publications


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
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Puschstrasse 4
04103 Leipzig

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Friedrich Schiller University Jena

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