German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Interactions between aboveground and belowground herbivores via induced plant responses - Nicole van Dam

Molecular Interaction Ecology

In nature, plants suffer herbivory by aboveground and belowground herbivores at the same time. Herbivores feeding on roots or shoots may elicit local as well as systemic induced plant responses. In plants with both aboveground and belowground herbivores, the various signalling pathways hormones governing induced responses may interact. In this way, the plant’s response to either herbivore may be compromised. We are taking an ecological-experimental approach, in which we combine transcriptomics with metabolomics and phytohormone analyses. This will help to understand how plants integrate simultaneously induced responses and how this affects herbivores and higher trophic levels.

Ecometabolomic analyses of plant-environment interactions - Alexander Weinhold

Plant-environment interactions

Plants produce a myriad of chemical compounds to defend themselves against herbivore attack above- and belowground. So far, the identity of the chemicals and how they affect plant-associated food webs is still not completely understood. Especially the soil is still a ‘black box’ when it comes to the role of plant secondary metabolites. Exudates and volatiles produced by plant roots are important drivers of plant community assembly as well as of soil food web composition but their chemical composition is greatly unknown. Therefore, we are developing a novel toolbox for studying the functional role of plant chemistry in the soil, in mesocosms as well as in the field. This combination of ecological and metabolomics approaches will deepen our understanding of the chemical ecology of belowground interactions.

Tripartite interactions between beneficial microbes, plants and arthropods - Ainhoa Martinez Medina

Tripartite interactions

All plant species establish symbioses with microbes, which are mostly located belowground in the rhizosphere. The complex interplay of such microbial communities with their host–plant affects multiple plant traits such as growth rate and defence status. Rhizosphere microbes thus may affect the suitability of their host plants as a resource for herbivorous insects. In my research, I am mostly interested in how root fungal symbionts prime plant defences in their host plants. I thereby study the full range of processes involved; from the underlying molecular and chemical mechanisms to the ecological effects on herbivores, their natural enemies and pollinators.

Development of analytical methods to understand plant-environment interactions - Katharina Grosser

Analytical methods

In plant-environment interactions, phytohormones and plant secondary metabolites, e.g. glucosinolates, are major players. Identification and quantification of these compounds is crucial to understand interactions between plants and their associated food webs. My main aim is to develop, establish and implement methods on our analytical platforms (HPLC, LC-MS) for targeted and quantitative analysis of plant hormones and secondary metabolites. Furthermore, I am optimizing existing extraction and analytical methods for different metabolites tailored to the specific research questions and organisms in our research group.

Dr. Katharina Grosser is currently on parental leave. Please direct all inquiries to Dr. Andreas Schedl.

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