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Ziegler, J., Schmidt, S., Strehmel, N., Scheel, D. & Abel, S. Arabidopsis transporter ABCG37/PDR9 contributes primarily highly oxygenated coumarins to root exudation.  Scientific Rep 7, 3704, (2017) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-03250-6

The chemical composition of root exudates strongly impacts the interactions of plants with microorganisms in the rhizosphere and the efficiency of nutrient acquisition. Exudation of metabolites is in part mediated by ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters. In order to assess the contribution of individual ABC transporters to root exudation, we performed an LC-MS based non-targeted metabolite profiling of semi-polar metabolites accumulating in root exudates of Arabidopsis thaliana plants and mutants deficient in the expression of ABCG36 (PDR8/PEN3), ABCG37 (PDR9) or both transporters. Comparison of the metabolite profiles indicated distinct roles for each ABC transporter in root exudation. Thymidine exudation could be attributed to ABCG36 function, whereas coumarin exudation was strongly reduced only in ABCG37 deficient plants. However, coumarin exudation was compromised in abcg37 mutants only with respect to certain metabolites of this substance class. The specificity of ABCG37 for individual coumarins was further verified by a targeted LC-MS based coumarin profiling method. The response to iron deficiency, which is known to strongly induce coumarin exudation, was also investigated. In either treatment, the distribution of individual coumarins between roots and exudates in the investigated genotypes suggested the involvement of ABCG37 in the exudation specifically of highly oxygenated rather than monohydroxylated coumarins.
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Krägeloh, T., Cavalleri, J. M. V., Ziegler, J., Sander, J., Terhardt, M., Breves, G. & Cehak, A. Identification of hypoglycin a binding adsorbents as potential preventive measures in co-grazers of atypical myopathy affected horses. Equine Vet J. (2017) DOI: 10.1111/evj.12723



Intestinal absorption of hypoglycin A (HGA) and its metabolism are considered major prerequisites for atypical myopathy (AM). The increasing incidence and the high mortality rate of AM urgently necessitate new therapeutic and/or preventative approaches.


To identify a substance for oral administration capable of binding HGA in the intestinal lumen and effectively reducing the intestinal absorption of the toxin.

Study design

Experimental in vitro study.


Substances commonly used in equine practice (activated charcoal composition, di-tri-octahedral smectite, mineral oil and activated charcoal) were tested for their binding capacity for HGA using an in vitro incubation method. The substance most effective in binding HGA was subsequently tested for its potential to reduce intestinal HGA absorption. Jejunal tissues of 6 horses were incubated in Ussing chambers to determine mucosal uptake, tissue accumulation, and serosal release of HGA in the presence and absence of the target substance. Potential intestinal metabolism in methylenecyclopropyl acetic acid (MCPA)-conjugates was investigated by analysing their concentrations in samples from the Ussing chambers.


Activated charcoal composition and activated charcoal were identified as potent HGA binding substances with dose and pH dependent binding capacity. There was no evidence of intestinal HGA metabolism.

Main limitations

Binding capacity of adsorbents was tested in vitro using aqueous solutions, and in vivo factors such as transit time and composition of intestinal content, may affect adsorption capacity after oral administration.


For the first time, this study identifies substances capable of reducing HGA intestinal absorption. This might have major implications as a preventive measure in cograzers of AM affected horses but also in horses at an early stage of intoxication.


Liu, S., Ziegler, J., Zeier, J., Birkenbihl, R. P. & Somssich, I. E. Botrytis cinerea B05.10 promotes disease development in Arabidopsis by suppressing WRKY33-mediated host immunity. Plant, Cell Environ. 40(10), 2189-2206, (2017) DOI: 10.1111/pce.13022

The large WRKY transcription factor family is mainly involved in regulating plant immune responses. Arabidopsis WRKY33 is a key transcriptional regulator of hormonal and metabolic processes towards Botrytis cinerea strain 2100 infection and is essential for resistance. In contrast to B. cinerea strain 2100, the strain B05.10 is virulent on wild-type (WT) Col-0 Arabidopsis plants highlighting the genetic diversity within this pathogen species. We analysed how early WRKY33-dependent responses are affected upon infection with strain B05.10 and found that most of these responses were strongly dampened during this interaction. Ectopic expression of WRKY33 resulted in complete resistance towards this strain indicating that virulence of B05.10, at least partly, depends on suppressing WRKY33 expression/protein accumulation. As a consequence, the expression levels of direct WRKY33 target genes, including those involved in the biosynthesis of camalexin, were also reduced upon infection. Concomitantly, elevated levels of the phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA) were observed. Molecular and genetic studies revealed that ABA negatively influences defence to B05.10 and effects jasmonic acid/ethylene (JA/ET) and salicylic acid (SA) levels. Susceptibility/resistance was determined by the antagonistic effect of ABA on JA, and this crosstalk required suppressing WRKY33 functions at early infection stages. This indicates that B. cinerea B05.10 promotes disease by suppressing WRKY33-mediated host defences.

Ziegler, J., Schmidt, S., Chutia, R., Müller, J., Böttcher, C., Strehmel, N., Scheel, D. & Abel, S. Non-targeted profiling of semi-polar metabolites in Arabidopsis root exudates uncovers a role for coumarin secretion and lignification during the local response to phosphate limitation. J. Exp. Bot. 67, 1421-1432, (2016) DOI: 10.1093/jxb/erv539

Plants have evolved two major strategies to cope with phosphate (Pi) limitation. The systemic response, mainly comprising increased Pi uptake and metabolic adjustments for more efficient Pi use, and the local response, enabling plants to explore Pi-rich soil patches by reorganization of the root system architecture. Unlike previous reports, this study focused on root exudation controlled by the local response to Pi deficiency. To approach this, a hydroponic system separating the local and systemic responses was developed. Arabidopsis thaliana genotypes exhibiting distinct sensitivities to Pi deficiency could be clearly distinguished by their root exudate composition as determined by non-targeted reversed-phase ultraperformance liquid chromatography electrospray ionization quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry metabolite profiling. Compared with wild-type plants or insensitive low phosphate root 1 and 2 (lpr1 lpr2) double mutant plants, the hypersensitive phosphate deficiency response 2 (pdr2) mutant exhibited a reduced number of differential features in root exudates after Pi starvation, suggesting the involvement of PDR2-encoded P5-type ATPase in root exudation. Identification and analysis of coumarins revealed common and antagonistic regulatory pathways between Pi and Fe deficiency-induced coumarin secretion. The accumulation of oligolignols in root exudates after Pi deficiency was inversely correlated with Pi starvation-induced lignification at the root tips. The strongest oligolignol accumulation in root exudates was observed for the insensitive lpr1 lpr2 double mutant, which was accompanied by the absence of Pi deficiency-induced lignin deposition, suggesting a role of LPR ferroxidases in lignin polymerization during Pi starvation. 


Strehmel, N., Mönchgesang,S., Herklotz, S., Krüger, S., Ziegler, J. & Scheel, D. Piriformospora indica Stimulates Root Metabolism of Arabidopsis thaliana. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 17, 1091, (2016) DOI: 10.3390/ijms17071091

Piriformospora indica is a root-colonizing fungus, which interacts with a variety of plants including Arabidopsis thaliana. This interaction has been considered as mutualistic leading to growth promotion of the host. So far, only indolic glucosinolates and phytohormones have been identified as key players. In a comprehensive non-targeted metabolite profiling study, we analyzed Arabidopsis thaliana’s roots, root exudates, and leaves of inoculated and non-inoculated plants by ultra performance liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry (UPLC/(ESI)-QTOFMS) and gas chromatography/electron ionization quadrupole mass spectrometry (GC/EI-QMS), and identified further biomarkers. Among them, the concentration of nucleosides, dipeptides, oligolignols, and glucosinolate degradation products was affected in the exudates. In the root profiles, nearly all metabolite levels increased upon co-cultivation, like carbohydrates, organic acids, amino acids, glucosinolates, oligolignols, and flavonoids. In the leaf profiles, we detected by far less significant changes. We only observed an increased concentration of organic acids, carbohydrates, ascorbate, glucosinolates and hydroxycinnamic acids, and a decreased concentration of nitrogen-rich amino acids in inoculated plants. These findings contribute to the understanding of symbiotic interactions between plant roots and fungi of the order of Sebacinales and are a valid source for follow-up mechanistic studies, because these symbioses are particular and clearly different from interactions of roots with mycorrhizal fungi or dark septate endophytes 

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Bochnia, M., Scheidemann, W., Ziegler, J., Sander, J., Vollstedt, S., Glatter, M., Janzen, N., Terhardt, M. & Zeyner, A. Predictive value of hypoglycin A and methylencyclopropylacetic acid conjugates in a horse with atypical myopathy in comparison to its cograzing partners Equine Veterinary Education (2016) DOI: 10.1111/eve.12596

Hypoglycin A (HGA) was detected in blood and urine of a horse suffering from atypical myopathy (AM; Day 2, serum, 8290 μg/l; urine: Day 1, 574, Day 2, 742 μg/l) and in its cograzing partners with a high variability (46–1570 μg/l serum). Over the period of disease, the level of the toxic metabolites (methylencyclopropylacetic acid [MCPA]-conjugates) increased in body fluids of the AM horse (MCPA-carnitine: Day 2, 0.246, Day 3, 0.581 μmol/l serum; MCPA-carnitine: Day 2, 0.621, Day 3, 0.884 μmol/mmol creatinine in urine) and HGA decreased rapidly (Day 3, 2430 μg/l serum). In cograzing horses MCPA-conjugates were not detected. HGA in seeds ranged from 268 to 367 μg/g. Although HGA was present in body fluids of healthy cograzing horses, MCPA-conjugates were not detectable, in contrast to the AM horse. Therefore, increasing concentrations of MCPA-conjugates are supposed to be linked with the onset of AM and both parameters seem to indicate the clinical stage of disease. However, detection of HGA in body fluids of cograzing horses might be a promising step in preventing the disease.

Bücher und Buchkapitel

Liu, S., Kracher, B., Ziegler, J., Birkenbihl, R. P. & Somssich, I. E. Negative regulation of ABA signaling by WRKY33 is critical for Arabidopsis immunity towards Botrytis cinerea 2100. In: eLife 4, e07295, (2015) DOI: 10.7554/eLife.07295

The Arabidopsis mutant wrky33 is highly susceptible to Botrytis cinerea. We identified >1680 Botrytis-induced WRKY33 binding sites associated with 1576 Arabidopsis genes. Transcriptional profiling defined 318 functional direct target genes at 14 hr post inoculation. Comparative analyses revealed that WRKY33 possesses dual functionality acting either as a repressor or as an activator in a promoter-context dependent manner. We confirmed known WRKY33 targets involved in hormone signaling and phytoalexin biosynthesis, but also uncovered a novel negative role of abscisic acid (ABA) in resistance towards B. cinerea 2100. The ABA biosynthesis genes NCED3 and NCED5 were identified as direct targets required for WRKY33-mediated resistance. Loss-of-WRKY33 function resulted in elevated ABA levels and genetic studies confirmed that WRKY33 acts upstream of NCED3/NCED5 to negatively regulate ABA biosynthesis. This study provides the first detailed view of the genome-wide contribution of a specific plant transcription factor in modulating the transcriptional network associated with plant immunity.


Bochnia, M., Ziegler, J., Sander, J., Uhlig, A., Schaefer, S., Vollstedt, S., Glatter, M., Abel, S., Recknagel, S., Schusser, G. F., Wensch-Dorendorf, M. & Zeyner, A. Hypoglycin A Content in Blood and Urine Discriminates Horses with Atypical Myopathy from Clinically Normal Horses Grazing on the Same Pasture PLoS ONE 10, e0136785, (2015) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136785

Hypoglycin A (HGA) in seeds of Acer spp. is suspected to cause seasonal pasture myopathy in North America and equine atypical myopathy (AM) in Europe, fatal diseases in horses on pasture. In previous studies, this suspicion was substantiated by the correlation of seed HGA content with the concentrations of toxic metabolites in urine and serum (MCPA-conjugates) of affected horses. However, seed sampling was conducted after rather than during an outbreak of the disease. The aim of this study was to further confirm the causality between HGA occurrence and disease outbreak by seed sampling during an outbreak and the determination of i) HGA in seeds and of ii) HGA and MCPA-conjugates in urine and serum of diseased horses. Furthermore, cograzing healthy horses, which were present on AM affected pastures, were also investigated. AM-pastures in Germany were visited to identify seeds of Acer pseudoplatanus and serum (n = 8) as well as urine (n = 6) from a total of 16 diseased horses were analyzed for amino acid composition by LC-ESI-MS/MS, with a special focus on the content of HGA. Additionally, the content of its toxic metabolite was measured in its conjugated form in body fluids (UPLC-MS/MS). The seeds contained 1.7–319.8 μg HGA/g seed. The content of HGA in serum of affected horses ranged from 387.8–8493.8 μg/L (controls < 10 μg/L), and in urine from 143.8–926.4 μg/L (controls < 10 μg/L), respectively. Healthy cograzing horses on AM-pastures showed higher serum (108.8 ± 83.76 μg/L) and urine concentrations (26.9 ± 7.39 μg/L) compared to control horses, but lower concentrations compared to diseased horses. The range of MCPA-carnitine and creatinine concentrations found in diseased horses in serum and urine were 0.17–0.65 mmol/L (controls < 0.01), and 0.34–2.05 μmol/mmoL (controls < 0.001), respectively. MCPA-glycine levels in urine of cograzing horses were higher compared to controls. Thus, the causal link between HGA intoxication and disease outbreak could be further substantiated, and the early detection of HGA in cograzing horses, which are clinically normal, might be a promising step in prophylaxis.


Buhtz, A., Witzel, K., Strehmel, N., Ziegler, J., Abel, S. & Grosch, R. Perturbations in the Primary Metabolism of Tomato and Arabidopsis thaliana Plants Infected with the Soil-Borne Fungus Verticillium dahliae PLoS ONE 10, e0138242, (2015) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138242

The hemibiotrophic soil-borne fungus Verticillium dahliae is a major pathogen of a number of economically important crop species. Here, the metabolic response of both tomato and Arabidopsis thaliana to V. dahliae infection was analysed by first using non-targeted GC-MS profiling. The leaf content of both major cell wall components glucuronic acid and xylose was reduced in the presence of the pathogen in tomato but enhanced in A. thaliana. The leaf content of the two tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates fumaric acid and succinic acid was increased in the leaf of both species, reflecting a likely higher demand for reducing equivalents required for defence responses. A prominent group of affected compounds was amino acids and based on the targeted analysis in the root, it was shown that the level of 12 and four free amino acids was enhanced by the infection in, respectively, tomato and A. thaliana, with leucine and histidine being represented in both host species. The leaf content of six free amino acids was reduced in the leaf tissue of diseased A. thaliana plants, while that of two free amino acids was raised in the tomato plants. This study emphasizes the role of primary plant metabolites in adaptive responses when the fungus has colonized the plant.

Bücher und Buchkapitel

Tissier, A., Ziegler, J. & Vogt T. Specialized plant metabolites: Diversity and biosynthesis . In: Ecological Biochemistry: environmental and Interspecies Interactions (Krauß, G. J.; Nies, D. H.). 14-37, (2014) ISBN: 978-3-527-31650-2 DOI: 10.1002/9783527686063.ch2

Plant secondary metabolites, also termed specialized plant metabolites, currently comprise more than 200 000 natural products that are all based on a few biosynthetic pathways and key primary metabolites. Some pathways like flavonoid and terpenoid biosynthesis are universally distributed in the plant kingdom, whereas others like alkaloid or cyanogenic glycoside biosynthesis are restricted to a limited set of taxa. Diversification is achieved by an array of mechanisms at the genetic and enzymatic level including gene duplications, substrate promiscuity of enzymes, cell-specific regulatory systems, together with modularity and combinatorial aspects. Specialized metabolites reflect adaptations to a specific environment. The observed diversity illustrates the heterogeneity and multitude of ecological habitats and niches that plants have colonized so far and constitutes a reservoir of potential new metabolites that may provide adaptive advantage in the face of environmental changes. The code that connects the observed chemical diversity to this ecological diversity is largely unknown. One way to apprehend this diversity is to realize its tremendous plasticity and evolutionary potential. This chapter presents an overview of the most widespread and popular secondary metabolites, which provide a definite advantage to adapt to or to colonize a particular environment, making the boundary between the “primary” and the “secondary” old fashioned and blurry.
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