Research within the ‘Plant Physiology' group is focused on signalling in plants in relation to biotic stress at different organisational levels.
Signal transduction cascades are studied that help plants cope with biological and environmental stress conditions. Plants have a unique ability to quickly and adequately respond to sudden changes in their environment such as an attack by pathogens or herbivores. As they are unable to walk away from the threat, a rapid activation of signalling cascades that eventually lead to survival of the plant is crucial.
Within our department, we study signalling during plant-insect interactions. During flowering, for example, floral volatiles are produced to attract insect pollinators and during wounding leaf volatiles, which can not only prime defence responses in neighbouring plants, but also repel insects and attract their predators. We use Arabidopsis, Petunia and tomato as plant model systems, and thrips, whiteflies and caterpillars as insect model systems. We combine metabolomics, transcriptomics, genomics and proteomics to identify metabolites, genes and proteins in plants and insects important in their interactions. Our group is also interested in the transcriptional networks underlying the regulation of plant volatile production and the mechanisms by which priming occurs and we aim to understand volatile perception by the plant and the insect. Since many leaf and stem volatiles are generated in glandular hairs (trichomes) we study these organs in great detail.