PD Dr. Frank Waller

Research area:


Plant-microbe interactions

Molecular mechanisms of plant pathogen resistance

Plant sphingolipids and sphingobases

Programmed cell death in plants

Our Team

Programmed cell death in plants: The role of sphingolipids and sphingobases

The initiation of programmed cell death (PCD) is an important mechanism of plants to stop the spread of biotrophic pathogens in the tissue. We have shown that bacteria-induced programmed cell death in Arabidopsis is associated with elevated levels of the sphingobase phytosphingosine. Currently, we investigate whether phytosphingosine plays a role as a signal molecule in the regulation of the plant defense response. We have prepared a series of Arabidopsis mutant / overexpression lines that have altered levels of specific sphingobases. These plants allow functional studies of the role of sphingobases in plant-programmed cell death.


Our last publication you may find here: https://academic.oup.com/pcp/advance-article/doi/10.1093/pcp/pcz033/5362037?guestAccessKey=0d2b2db5-a82b-4a9d-99a3-0113edbc4df6

Improving plant pathogen resistance by root-colonising endophytic fungi

Serendipita indica (Piriformospora indica) and Serendipita herbamans, fungi of the order Sebacinales, colonize the roots of many plant species. This colonization can increase pathogen resistance of the host plant, not only in the roots, but also in the leaves (systemic resistance). In addition, colonization can lead to accelerated development and increased yield of the plant. We investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying this improvement in plant resistance and differences in plant responses to symbionts and pathogens.

Selected publications

1.    Glenz R, Schmalhaus D, Krischke M, Mueller MJ, Waller F (2019) Elevated Levels of Phosphorylated Sphingobases Do Not Antagonize Sphingobase- or Fumonisin B1-Induced Plant Cell Death. Plant and Cell Physiology 60:1109-1119.
2.    Weiß M, Waller F, Zuccaro A, Selosse MA (2016) Sebacinales - one thousand and one interactions with land plants. New Phytologist 211(1): 20-40.
3.    Pedrotti L, Mueller MJ, Waller F (2013) Piriformospora indica Root Colonization Triggers Local and Systemic Root Responses and Inhibits Secondary Colonization of Distal Roots. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69352. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069352.
4.    Peer M, Stegmann M, Mueller MJ, Waller F (2010) Pseudomonas syringae infection triggers de novo synthesis of phytosphingosine from sphinganine in Arabidopsis thaliana. FEBS Letters 584: 4053-4056.
5.    Stein E, Molitor A, Kogel K-H, Waller F (2008) Systemic resistance in Arabidopsis conferred by the mycorrhiza fungus Piriformospora indica requires jasmonic acid signalling and the cytoplasmic function of NPR1. Plant and Cell Physiology 49: 1747-1751.
6.    Waller F, Achatz B, Baltruschat H, Fodor J, Becker K, Fischer M, Heier T, Hückelhoven R, Neumann C, von Wettstein D, Franken P, Kogel K-H (2005) The endophytic fungus Piriformospora indica reprograms barley to salt stress tolerance, disease resistance and higher yield. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS) 102: 13386-13391.

About me

I received my Ph.D. (Biology) at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i.Br., Germany. Studies abroad included stays in China, Taiwan and Japan.

I worked at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST), Nara, Japan as a postdoctoral fellow and worked as a group leader at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Germany.

Since 2009 I am leading a small research group at the Chair of Pharmaceutical Biology, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg.

Funding by

Our project 'Functional characterisation of sphingobase and sphingolipid metabolism and the role of sphingobases in plant programmed cell death'  was funded until early 2019 by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

Previous research was supported by: DFG, Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung / Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS),  Ostasien-Stipendienprogramm der Daimler Benz AG / Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes,  Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD).