Our research projects are focused on the analysis of interactions between plant parasitic nematodes and their hosts. The central models are sedentary nematodes such as cyst and root-knot nematodes. Using Arabidopsis thaliana as model host, we analyze the processes that lead to the formation of specific nutrient transfer cell complexes in the root. We study the regulation and physiology of specific differentiation processes in the plant and isolate and characterize nematode effectors which induce these processes. In cooperation with commercial partners we try to transfer the results of our fundamental research into applied breeding and plant protection.
We also study the phenomenon that certain plant-associated microorganisms support plants to cope with pathogens or abiotic stress. Here we focus on fungal endophytes which invade roots without induction of disease symptoms, but increase plant defence against nematodes and insects and tolerance against drought stress. We are interested in analyzing the fundamental processes involved and try to transfer the results to applications in agriculture.