Prof. Dr. Dr. Martin J. Müller

Department of Pharmaceutical Biology
Julius-von-Sachs-Institut für Biowissenschaften
Julius-von-Sachs-Platz 2
97082 Würzburg

Phone: + 49 931 31-86160
Fax: + 49 931 31-86182


Focus of the working group

The group studies lipid signalling pathways and the metabolism of lipids and secondary metabolites in plant adaptive responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. Mass spectrometry-based metabolic analyses are also performed in the model organism Drosophila to elucidate the influence of the circadian clock on the control of metabolism.

We typically use metabolomics/lipidomics as a first research approach to detect rapid metabolic adaptation mechanisms. Metabolic adaptation to a changing environment is an essential and often immediate response that can have significant fitness consequences if it fails. We use genetic tools to functionally test the relevance of metabolic fine-tuning in the context of biotic and abiotic stress.

Lipid mediators in plants

Martin J. Müller (PI)

Oxidized lipids in microbes, plants and animals often play an essential role as signalling molecules in development, reproduction and defence against biotic and abiotic stresses. In addition to jasmonates, we focus on novel electrophilic lipid mediators and secondary metabolites that mediate defence responses through covalent modification of proteins and changes in cellular redox potential. The rapid activation of lipid-based defence mechanisms is an important first-line defence strategy against microbes and herbivores. The aim of this project is to elucidate the underlying recognition and signalling mechanisms and the importance of the signalling molecules for specific defence responses.


Metabolic mechanisms of thermotolerance in plants

Martin J. Müller (PI), Agnes Fekete (PI)

Preliminary work at the Chair has shown that plants convert structural lipids from membranes into energy storage lipids (triacylglycerides) even under moderate heat stress. Mutants with a defect in metabolic adaptation to high temperatures were shown to be highly sensitive to heat stress. Our own work and recently published work by other research groups indicate that the rapid, stress-induced build-up of energy storage lipids in vegetative plant tissues has an important function in the resistance to abiotic and biotic stress, which is associated with an impairment of energy supply through photosynthesis. The metabolic adaptation reactions of plants to heat stress (and other stressors) will be elucidated in detail and their functional significance clarified using genetic, physiological and metabolomic methods.

Thermotolerance of plants – Genome-wide association studies

Daniel Maag (PI), Martin J. Müller, Arthur Korte (CCTB)

Arabidopsis thaliana is widespread throughout the northern hemisphere. Ecotypes have evolved that are adapted to very different climatic and environmental conditions. We are using a collection of over 1135 different ecotypes with sequenced genomes to correlate specific adaptations of thermotolerance to climate with genetic changes. The aim is to identify and functionally validate genes associated with heat perception and signalling. Genetic, metabolic, physiological and bioinformatic methods will be used.

Insect timing: influence of the internal clock of Drosophila on the control of metabolism

Agnes Fekete (PI), Martin J. Mueller (PI)

Proper timing is essential for all organisms. In the CRC "Insect Timing" we use a high-end mass spectrometric metabolomics approach to identify clock-controlled, circadian-regulated metabolites in Drosophila melanogaster. These analyses will be complemented by molecular and physiological studies in close collaboration with the other CRC subprojects. The aim of the project is to understand the functional relationship between clock genes and metabolism and physiology.