The Molecular Basis of Carnivory

    In this project we are aiming on the elucidation of the molecular basis of carnivory in the plant kingdom. Different sub-projects within the "CARNIVOROME" are dealing with


    • Genome/Transcriptome profiling to study the genetic make-up of carnivorous plants (CPs) and the evolution of carnivory
    • Origin of Excitability to investigate whether CPs gained the inventory to fire action potential from captured animals or rather evolved excitability independently
    • Prey Recognition on the basis of mechanical- and chemical senses
    • Endocrinology Structure and function of exocrine glands - CPs offer a unique system to study the biology of digestive glands (exo-/endocytosis) in plants.

    Over 600 plant species use special structures to capture animals such as insects. The genome/transcriptome of major trap types such as snap traps, tentacles traps, suction traps, corkscrew traps, and pitfall traps will be compared and trap-specific genes identified. Among them those giving rise to membrane excitation, excitation-contraction coupling and exocrine systems (glands) will be functionally characterized in detail. Using loss-of-function mutants and transformed plants with respect to CP-specific the role of CP-specific in electrical signalling, excitation contraction coupling, and excretion will be unravelled.
    The evolution of electrical activity and carnivory of plants is worth being examined not only for its importance in general, but also as a model for understanding the evolution of the human nervous and endocrine system.