© Ute C. Vothknecht

Research Focus

Plants are susceptible to a great variety of abiotic and biotic stress factors that influence their growth and development. To cope with these short term environmental changes, plants have evolved complex signaling networks to initiate appropiate tissue and developmental stage depedent responses to different stimuli. Secondary messengers such as Ca2+ and ROS as well as plant hormones have essential roles in these signaling pathways.

Our group offers a bouquet of experimental approaches and methods to analyse various signaling pathways and their crosstalk with each other. The aim is to gain a deeper understanding how plants sense and interact with their environment. In our projects we combine classical molecular and biochemical methods with high-end fluorescent microscopy, Omics and big data analysis. For more applied goals we compare the model plant A. thaliana with the crop plants barley and potato.

Calcium-dependent Signaling in Plant Organelles

Ca2+ signals have been shown to occur in response to many environmental and developmental stimuli. Changes in the concentration of free calcium [Ca2+] are recognized by a tool kit of Ca2+ sensor proteins that confer the signal into a cellular response via interaction with various target proteins; thus regulating many different cellular processes.

Our group has a special interest in the integration of plant organelles into the Ca2+ signaling network of the cell.

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© Ute Vothknecht


Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerant Potato - EU H2020-SFS-2018-2020 (Sustainable Food Security)

Potato is one of the most important staple food crop worldwide. It also has important economic relevance as  forage crop and industrial commodity. Potato originates from the climatically cool highland regions of South America and is therefore particularly sensitive to heat. 

As partner in a large EU-wide research consortium, we investigate the adaptation mechanisms of potato plants to heat and drought.

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© Markus Teige

Comparative analysis of early stress responses between the model plant Arabidopsis and the crop plants barley and potato

Early responsive systems that react to stresses include Ca2+ signaling, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and various phytohormones. While many of the aspects of early stress responses are studied on an individual level, i.e. for a single stress or a single response pathway, the interplay of different systems under often multiple concurrent stresses is much less investigated. Furthermore, much less is known about these response pathways in crop plants compared to the model plant Arabidopsis.

In this project we are thus comparing early stress responses between Arabidopsis, barley and potato.

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Role of epitranscriptomic modification (m6A) in drought stress

In recent years, post-transcriptional RNA modifications have emerged as important ‘epitranscriptomic’ regulatory networks. This project addresses the role of m6A in regulating molecular mechanisms behind drought tolerance that is mediated by phytohormone such as ABA and JA. 

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