The Department CMB is currently composed of four research groups (RG).The RG Glandular Trichomes & Isoprenoid Biosynthesis aims at understanding the genetic and molecular basis of trichome development and metabolism using tomato as a model system. Glandular trichomes are highly specialized organs dedicated to the production of a limited set of metabolites including isoprenoids. The importance of these structures and their secretions in resistance to insect, microbial pathogens and abiotic stresses is increasingly becoming apparent, thus potentially providing, among other applications, alternative ways to reduce pesticide usage. Other areas of interest include isoprenoid biosynthesis and its compartmentation, structure-function studies of a recently discovered class of terpene synthases and the development of molecular tools for metabolic engineering of glandular trichomes.
Two of the RG investigate mutualistic-symbiotic interactions between plant roots and soil-borne microorganisms, mainly the arbuscular mycorrhiza. This widespread symbiosis can considerably improve plant nutrition, but contributes also to an enhanced defense status of plants against pathogens. The RG Jasmonate Function & Mycorrhiza focuses on the role of phytohormones (jasmonates) in this interaction and on cytological aspects of mycorrhization. Recently developed areas of research include the functional analysis of signals between shoot and root in the systemic response to wounding, the role of jasmonates in flower development of tomato, and the development of tools to localize hormones (jasmonates and abscisic acid) at cell and tissue-specific levels. Moreover, numerous collaborations with groups in Germany and abroad are ongoing in respect to cell biology approaches, but also to analyses of jasmonates and oxylipins.
The RG Carotenoid Metabolism & Mycorrhiza investigates the biosynthesis of two types of carotenoid cleavage products (apocarotenoids) induced in mycorrhizal roots (cyclohexenone and mycorradicin derivatives) and aims to elucidate the function of these compounds in the symbiosis by using gene silencing and genetic approaches. A new focus of research is the interplay in the biosynthesis of these mycorrhiza-induced apocarotenoids and the recently discovered class of apocarotenoid hormones, the strigolactones.
The RG Biochemistry of Proteins & Metabolite Profiling has two major areas of interest. The first area concerns the application and development of new tools for the study of enzymes and metabolites with a focus on the annotation and characterization of enzyme families involved in the modification of natural products, like glycosylation, methylation and acylation. In particular, ‘Affinity / Activity Based Protein Profiling’ approaches have recently been successfully applied to characterize the tissue-specific distribution of O-methyltransferases (OMTs) in Arabidopsis wild type and OMT-knockout lines. The second area addresses the in vivo function of certain members of these enzymes families, with the current focus on the biosynthesis and function of a plethora of phenylpropanoid conjugates of spermidine produced in Arabidopsis anthers and deposited in the cell wall of mature pollen grains.