Botanical Institute
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Scientific Portrait

What we work on

Life is not easy. There are two approaches to cope with that – animals run away, plants adapt. We want to understand, how. The key are plant cells that mediate shape, adaptation and the enormous diversity of plants. Wie address this on three levels: In the group Applied Biodiversity, we try to dissect, protect and valorise evolutionary diversity. In the focus are wild relatives of crop plants. In the group Plant Stress, we try to understand, how plants can differentiate between and respond appropriately to different types of stress. Our motivation is the sustainable agriculture of the future. Therefore, we work on the crop plants Rice, Sorghum, and Grapevine. Our central lever ist he plant hormone jasmonic acid.
In the group Cellular Biotechnology we ask a fundamental question of developmental biology: plants can generate an entire organism from any cell. We cannot. How does a population of individuals organise an entity. How can a cell sense its integrity? These scientific questions lead to new applications. Can we manipulate cells through "chemical Trojan horses" without perturbing their integrity; can we organise different cell types in a microfluidic biofermenter into a technical entity to make them generate medically interesting compounds?

Our contribution to DialogProTec

Using cell cultures, we have mapped the immune responses of grapevine in great detail and know several key genes and responses that decide, whether a plant cell can successfully ward off a pathogen attack. In the Botanical Garden of the KIT, we have assembled a collection of the European Wild Grape (the ancestor of our grapevine), representing the entire genetic diversity for this species still remaining in Germany. For this collection, in a cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, all genomes have been deciphered and organised in a database, such that we can find all naturally occurring gene variants. These include also highly efficient genetic switches (so called transcription factors) for plant immunity.
These are now used to generate a test system for immunity activation. The control sequence of these switches are placed upstream of the gene coding for the Green Fluorescent Protein, and this newly assembled gene construct is introducted into plant cells. Each time, when immunity is acitvated, a green fluorescence results that can be measured. These cells will then be integrated intot the chip system developed by partner KIT-IMT, such that we can investigate the fungal strains provided by partner IWBF. Strains that make our „immunity detector“ light up, will then be investigated further by partner ALUF, to identify the signal responsible for this immunity response.

Project-relevant publications

Akaberi S, Wang H, Claudel P, Riemann M, Hause B, Hugueney P, Nick P (2018) Grapevine Fatty Acid Hydroperoxide Lyase Generates Actin-Disrupting Volatiles and Promotes Defence-Related Cell Death. J Exp Bot 69, 2883-2896

Duan D, Fischer S, Merz PR, Bogs J, Riemann M, Nick P (2016) An ancestral allele of grapevine transcription factor MYB14 promotes plant defence. J Exp Bot 67, 1795-1804

Nick P (2014) Schützen und nützen - von der Erhaltung zur Anwendung. Fallbeispiel Europäische Wildrebe. Hoppea Denkschr Regensb Bot Ges Sonderband, 159-173


Prof. Dr. Peter Nick
Prof. Dr. Peter Nick, Head of project
Dr. Alexandra Wolf
Dr. Alexandra Wolf, coordinator
M. Sci. Christian Metzger
M. Sci. Christian Metzger, PhD student

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