Project 1

Communication in plant communities via a hyphal network connecting the roots of neighboring plants

Supervisors: Ralf Oelmüller, FSU Jena, Axel Mithöfer, MPI for Chemical Ecology

Background: Plants inform their neighbors about pathogen attacks or other kinds of threat. The information is distributed in the plant community via volatiles and/or fungal hyphal networks which connect their roots. We have recently shown that jasmonic acid-based defense information induced by a pathogen in Arabidopsis leaves travels from the leaves to the roots of the infected plant, and is further transferred to neighboring plants via a hyphal network of the beneficial endophytic fungus Piriformospora indica. The not infected neighboring plants respond to the systemic information by activating an abscisic acid-based alarm system (Vahabi et al., 2018, Front Plant Sci. 9:626). The goal of this project is to understand which mechanisms are involved in the information transfer.

Project Description: The project analyses the information transfer from a threat-exposed Arabidopsis seedling to a not threated neighboring seedling in Petri dishes, in which the roots are connected or not connected via a hyphal network. (a) The threat in the donor plant will be applied by pathogens or insects, or artificially mimicked by chemicals, or by genetic manipulation of defense compounds involved in perception, signaling and transduction of threat information. (b) The response of the neighboring plant will be monitored by changes in hormone and –omics levels, altered physiological parameters, reporter systems, or mutant analyses. The involvement of hormones can be followed by light-emitting marker systems. (c) The hyphal connection will be established with different beneficial root-colonizing fungi.

About us: We offer a stimulating and dynamic working environment as well as excellent, state-of-the-art research facilities. The project is integrated in a long lasting cooperation between the two groups localized at the University and the MPI-CE. The successful candidate will be part of this consortium, interacts with PhD students and Postdocs at both institutions and will be supervised by the two PIs.

Candidate profile:

  • A strong background in plant physiology, molecular biology and genetics
  • Demonstrated expertise in molecular and genetic techniques
  • Previous work with model plants is a plus
  • Scientific and critical attitude
  • Curiosity, creativity, and ambition
  • Excellent time management and organizational skills
  • Ability to interact with other scientists in the group
  • Good communication skills
  • Proficiency in written and spoken English

    Project 1 pdf