RG Feussner - Projects
PRoTECT: Plant Responses To Eliminate Critical Threats (IRTG 2172)
The International Research Training Group 2172 funded by the DFG is a collaborative program between research groups of the Georg-August-University Goettingen (UGOE) and research groups of the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver.
The IRTG is managed by 8 research groups of the Georg August University Goettingen in close cooperation with 7 research groups of the Department of Botany and the Michael-Smith Laboratories of the UBC in Vancouver. A joint PhD training program and close cooperation within the projects provide international experience and an international network to the doctoral researchers who also spend part of their PhD thesis in Canada.
MAdLand: Investigating the Evolution of Sphingolipid Synthesis and Function in Land Plants (DFG priority programme 2237)
Sphingolipids are ubiquitous metabolites in eukaryotic cells. Across kingdoms, they are essential membrane components enriched in the plasma membrane, as well as signaling molecules. In plants, they are involved in several processes such as maintenance of plasma membrane integrity and microdomain formation, cell growth and division, polar secretion, and programmed cell death signaling. The precise functions of sphingolipids have been challenging to study in vascular plant models due to non-viable and pleiotropic mutant phenotypes, complex organ structure, and difficulties with sphingolipid extraction and detection. The model bryophytes Marchantia polymorpha and Physcomitrium patens have simpler developmental patterning that may help overcome some of these issues. Moreover, a more phylodiverse study of land plant species is necessary for understanding the acquisition of sphingolipids as a major membrane lipid component of plant cells, and may offer clues as to what the most conserved functions of sphingolipids are in the land plant lineage. Preliminary work by our group revealed a unique sphingolipid profile for Physcomitrium, and diversification of gene families associated with biosynthesis of the central building block of sphingolipids, ceramides. We will now carry out comprehensive sphingolipid profiling of Marchantia, as well as the algae Spirogyra pratensis and Mesotaenium endlicherianum, for a broader perspective of the establishment of characteristic plant sphingolipid building blocks. We will also use Physcomitrium and Marchantia to study the ancestral functions of sphingolipids in land plant. We will focus on the analysis of (1) a sphingolipid desaturase family that our work has suggested is specific to bryophytes and microalgae, (2) the ceramide synthase family as key enzymes in sphingolipid biosynthesis, and (3) ceramide glucosyltransferases, which catalyze the simplest modification of the ceramide backbone. We will further use these systems to test how sphingolipids contribute to tolerance of abiotic and biotic stresses associated with terrestrial life.
RubraSelect: Selection and characterization of high quality propagation material in red oak under consideration of drought stress tolerance.
Characterization of metabolome profiles for growth performance and drought stress tolerance in red oak.
The Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR) is funding our project to investigate the adaptability of red oak to drought stress and to select high-quality reproductive material in the context of climate adaptation of our forests within the framework of the "Forest Climate Fund". Seven partners from forestry experimental and research stations, state forestry enterprises, the Thünen Institute and the University of Göttingen are working together in the project.
The cultivation of non-native tree species is playing an important role in the context of sustainable forest management in Germany with regard to climate change. One non-native tree species of importance is red oak, which originated in America. The forest stocks established in Germany probably originate from the northeastern part of its natural habitat (northeastern United States, southeastern Canada). Red oak is characterized by early bud burst and late growth termination, resulting in an extended growing seasons with high growth rates. However, the cultivation of non-native tree species is often associated with a reduction in genetic variation. This can result in reduced population adaptability to rapidly changing environmental conditions, such as prolonged dry periods and extreme temperature fluctuations.
The goal of this project is to use genome-wide association mapping to investigate the genetic basis of the growth traits of red oak and its drought stress tolerance. Both factors will be crucial for the performance of red oak in the coming decades and thus for their sustainable cultivation in forestry.
The aim of the Department of Plant Biochemistry is to identify metabolites and transcripts as markers of drought stress tolerance in red oak that regulate and enable drought stress adaptation processes.
Finally, the selection of plus trees and their grafting and cultivation is planned as a basis for the subsequent establishment of a red oak nursery to produce high quality reproductive material for forestry.
CAMPRO: Camelina sativa: Establishing a high quality oil crop for marginal lands
Research goal: Optimization of Camelina seed output traits for the establishment of Camelina as crop plant for high quality oil production on marginal lands and for intercropping
Summary: The oilseed plant false flax (Camelina sativa) is drought tolerant and can be cultivated on marginal lands and as an intercrop. The genome of Camelina has been sequenced facilitating the identification of homologous genes. It is amenable to transformation and genome engineering technologies. Three German groups will perform target gene-specific mutagenesis using customized Cas endonucleases to increase the oil content, to optimize the fatty acid composition and to reduce the glucosinolate content in the seed. Optimized lines will be made available for testing by breeders (DSV, Limagrain, Camelina Company Espana). While this proposal does not aim at "replacing" rapeseed with Camelina, its goal is to provide farmers with an oilseed crop, which can be cultivated on marginal land or as an intercrop, and thus will provide additional income.
Prof. Dr. Ivo Feussner (Project coordinator), Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Prof. Dr. Peter Dörmann, University of Bonn
Dr. Jochen Kumlehn, Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)
Evaluation of novel biological seed technologies for the defense against insect pests in rape seed
Rapeseeds are grown on approximately 10% of the German arable land. Thus rape is the most successful oil plant in Germany and at the same time an important supplier of plant protein for animal nutrition and potentially also for human nutrition. A risk to rape cultivation is the regular occurrence of insect pests which attack the plants and consequently lead to high yield losses. In the first 4 to 6 weeks after the sowing of rapeseed in autumn, the young plants are exposed to massive damage to the roots, shoots and leaves caused by infestation with the cabbage-stem flea beetle (Psylliodes chrysocephala L.) and the cabbage root fly (Delia radicum L.). In view of this problem, NPZ Innovation GmbH (Hohenlieth, Schleswig-Holstein), a service and research company for rape cultivation, together with the University of Göttingen and the seed breeding company W. von Borries-Eckendorf GmbH & Co. KG (Leopoldshöhe, Lower Saxony) initiated the research project InRaps, in which biological control options are investigated without the use of synthetic plant protection products against these pests. The main focus here is the treatment of rapeseed with useful microorganisms or natural preparations (e.g. plant extracts) to provide a defense against the pests. This can be a direct effect of the seed treatment on the pest or indirectly via the activation of the plant defense.
The assessment of different seed treatments for the damage of cabbage-stem flea beetle and cabbage root fly is carried out in a laboratory experiment by the Department of Agricultural Entomology of Prof. Vidal. Variations that reduce the pest infestation are then carried out in several field trials of NPZ Innovation GmbH and W. von Borries-Eckendorf GmbH to test the effectiveness of the seed treatment under practical conditions. At the same time, in the research group of Prof. Feussner of the Department Plant Biochemistry, chemical analyzes of plants are carried out in order to identify substances which are responsible for the positive effect on plant health. In this way biochemical mechanisms can be deciphered and scientific knowledge about the plant-insect relationship can be obtained.
The results of the InRaps project are intended to enable the establishment of a biological seed treatment against insects and thus make an important contribution to the reduction of plant protection products in the context of sustainable rape cultivation.
Biosynthesis of wax esters in land plants and bacteria
Wax esters are a group of highly hydrophobic neutral lipids existing in prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. The functions of wax esters are highly diverse, ranging from acting as storage compounds, structural components or UV-barriers to functioning as repellents or buoyancy-regulating agents. We are analyzing the biosynthesis of this lipid class in the vascular model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the crop plant Camelina sativa and in bacteria.
Biochemical characterization of the physiological function of lipoxygenases in Arabidopsis thaliana
LOX are nonheme iron–containing dioxygenases that form fatty acid hydroperoxides from polyunsaturated substrates. They may occur in gene families that can be subdivided into 9-LOX and 13-LOX. Since the first report on a 13-LOX that directly oxygenates storage and membrane lipids, a number of enzymes that accept complex lipids as substrates have been described. So far, this property is restricted to 13-LOX. We are analyzing the enzyme mechanism and function of this class of enzymes in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana as well as in algae and bacteria.
Development of new methods for lipidomics- and metabolomics applications
Metabolite analysis has been always linked to developments in separation science since the early days of chromatography, beginning with separations of leaf pigments more than a century ago. Since then, the great advances achieved in separation techniques have permitted selective and sensitive analyses up to the level of regio- and stereoisomers. Nevertheless, the gains in molecular detail still depend on tedious sample preparation and limits the scope of each method to a restricted number of analytes. Even low-abundance species are often masked by numerous isobaric interferences, such as those caused by isoelemental species and isotopologues. This scenario not only means that minor species are underrepresented, but also leads to potential misidentifications and limits the structural information gathered by lipidomic and metabolomic approaches. In order to overcome these limitations we are developing liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry methods in order to achieve an enhanced coverage of given lipidomes and metabolomes.