Chemical Communication

Communication between members of your kin but also between individuals of different species is essential for all living organisms. Plants have no tongue, neither ears nor eyes, still they communicate extensively using secondary metabolites to convey messages.

We study the specialized metabolites that plants make and how these affect plant’s growth and interactions with other organisms. In the lab, we utilize a metabolomic approach to measure the whole spectrum of volatile and non-volatile bioactive metabolites in various collections of solanaceous species. Our focus is on the role that terpenoid compounds play in indirect and direct defence mechanisms towards herbivores as well as their importance for the attraction of pollinators.

By combining genetic variation in metabolites with transcriptomics and genomics and experiments involving different plant-herbivore, plant-microbe and multitrophic interactions, we aim to better understand how gene regulatory networks steer the adaptation of specialized metabolism in response to biotic stress. Using the molecular toolbox, genes and regulators involved in terpene biosynthesis are identified and characterised in model species Arabidopsis and tobacco but also in crop species, including tomato, pepper and strawberry.