Department of Botany I - Plant-Physiology and Biophysics

    Molecular basis of carnivory Excitability, movement, and endocrinology of plant traps

    Predation plays a major role in energy and nutrient flow in the biological food chain. Carnivory is best known from the animal kingdom, but the plant kingdom has flesh eaters as well. This field has attracted much interest since Darwin’s time, but many fundamental properties of the carnivorous life style remain largely unexplored. This project will close this gap by a multidisciplinary approach based on state-of-art bioinformatics, molecular biology, chemistry and biophysics. It will focus on

    1. Genome/Transcriptome Profiling to study the genetic make-up of carnivorous plants (CPs) and the evolution of carnivory
    2. Origin of Excitability to investigate whether CPs gained the inventory to fire action potential from captured animals or rather evolved excitability independently
    3. Prey Recognition on the basis of mechanical- and chemical senses
    4. 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.

    Venusfliegenfalle und sensorisches-Haar
    Geöffnete Venus Fliegenfalle (A): Deutlich erkennbar sind die sensorischen Haare, deren Natur in der Ausschnittvergrößerung (B) mittels Raster-Elektronen-Mikroskopie deutlich wird. Berühren potenzielle Beutetiere ein Haar, werden dessen Zellen an einer Soll-Knickstelle gequetscht. Es entsteht ein elektrisches Signal, das sich über die Fallenoberfläche ausbreitet. Folgt kurz darauf ein zweites Signal, klappt die Falle zu. Aus ihren rosettenartigen Drüsenkomplexen (in B erkennbar) setzt die Pflanze dann Verdauungssekret frei. Auf jedem Quadratmillimeter sitzen 60 Drüsen, das macht 37.000 pro Falle. Bilder: Christian Wiese (A), Benjamin Hedrich (B). Grafik: Christian Wiese

    Call reference: ERC-2009-AdG 20090506
    Grant Agreement number: 250194
    Project acronym: Carnivorom
    Principal Investigator's name: Prof. Dr. Rainer Franz Hedrich
    Project title: Molecular basis of carnivory Excitability, movement, and endocrinology of plant traps
    Project starting date: 01/03/2010
    Period covered: from 01/03/2010 to 28/02/2015


    Lehrstuhl für Botanik I - Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie und Biophysik -
    Julius-von-Sachs-Platz 2
    97082 Würzburg

    Phone: +49 931 31-86101
    Fax: +49 931 31-86157

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