Plants are sessile organisms and thus have to cope with a variety of changing environmental conditions. These changing environmental conditions can be abiotic stresses, such as altered water or nutrient supply, or biotic stresses, such as interactions with herbivorous insects, pathogenic microorganisms, or other plant species. These biotic plant-environment-interactions are predominantly mediated by so-called specialized metabolites, low molecular weight compounds with high structural diversity. Specialized metabolites mediate for example the defense response of the plant against herbivores by being toxic, repellent, or antinutritive. Moreover, emitted or exudated specialized metabolites can directly influence the surrounding environment of the plant, as for instance the interaction with microorganisms or other plants.
The research focus of my group is the investigation of specialized plant metabolites by studying their occurrence, biosynthesis, and regulation. We use state-of-the-art techniques in molecular biology, biochemistry, and analytical chemistry to investigate specialized metabolites as
- defense response of poplar (Populus spp.) and willow (Salix spp.) trees against herbivorous insects (plant-herbivore interaction)
- targets for efficient production in heterologous hosts (bioengineering).