Bioeconomy Science Center
Research and cooperation for a sustainable bioeconomy

Bioeconomy Science Center
Research and cooperation for a sustainable bioeconomy
BOOST FUND Project PlaMint

Investigate plant-microbe interactions to improve plant health and productivity


Reliable and increased generation of plant biomass is a central aim of sustainable bioeconomy. An important factor for productivity is protection against pathogens in a changing environment. Breeding of resistant lines is an efficient method of protection against many pathogens, but so far has proven inefficient against certain diseases such as Verticillium wilt on oilseed rape (Brassica napus).
This project aims at identifying novel targets for breeding and advanced agricultural practices by translating knowledge on molecular mechanisms of plant microbe interaction from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and close relatives to the bioeconomically relevant crop Brassica napus.
We will compare two fungal pathogens of different families with initially similar infection strategies, but ultimately very different symptoms: the smut fungus Thecaphora thlaspeos and the wilt Verticillium longisporum. In a first step, we analyse the pre-infection communication between plant and fungus. Compounds released by the plant serve as a signal for either fungus that reveals presence of a potential host. Interference with conserved plant signals at this pre-infection level could represent an effective plant protection strategy and require intricate knowledge about plant molecular biology and fungal signal perception and integration. In a second step, we will analyse the crosstalk between host and pathogen early during infection with a major focus on oxidative processes and redox controlled molecular responses. The combination of dynamic live cell imaging, molecular genetics, high-throughput phenotyping and genomics will pave the way for the development of crops with enhanced pathogen resistance and advanced agricultural practice, contributing to ameliorate the consequences of pathogen infection.

Impact on Bioeconomy

Oilseed rape is an economically important crop in Germany with applications in cooking oil, biofuels and high-grade protein feed. Besides product-based direct economic value, oilseed rape is also indispensable for crop rotation in German agriculture. Continuous cropping of oilseed rape without rotation leads to dramatic reduction in yield with losses of up to 50% which are assumed to be caused largely by an accumulation of soil-borne fungal pathogens such as Verticillium longisporum (Rapswelke, Verticillium wilt) or Plasmodiophora brassicae (Kohlhernie, Club root). In contrast to other fungal pathogens Verticillium cannot be treated with fungicides and thus can only be controlled through extended rotation cycles, which limits the growth capacity for oilseed rape. Increased production of oilseed rape thus depends on the development of novel agricultural procedures that may help suppressing soil-borne pathogens and breeding and selection of rape variants that are less sensitive.

Expected results/ project products

This BOOST FUND project investigates the molecular and genetic basis of plant-microbe interaction and ultimately aims at a proof-of-concept for a translational approach from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to the crop plant oilseed rape. If successful this knowledge can help developing plant protection/growth promotion strategies for oilseed rape and be used as a proxy for a huge diversity of similar plant-microbe interactions for most crop plants. To reach this goal, we will (1) identify the spore-germination inducing plant signal at the pre-penetration level, (2) phenotypically characterize the plant response to fungal infection post-penetration, and (3) characterize the underlying molecular communication using high throughput genomic approaches and dynamic in vivo imaging tools.

Participating Core Groups

Prof. Dr. Andreas Meyer, INRES - Chemical Signalling, University of Bonn
Dr. Vera Göhre and Prof. Dr. Michael Feldbrügge,
Institute of Microbiology, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf
PD Dr. Ulrich Schaffrath
Institute of Biology III (Plant Physiology), RWTH Aachen and Prof. Dr. Björn Usadel, Institute of Biology I (Botany), RWTH Aachen/FZ Jülich
Dr. Robert Koller and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schurr,
Institute of Bio- and Geosciences IBG-2: Plant Sciences, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH

Prof. Dr. Andreas Meyer
INRES – Chemical Signalling
University of Bonn
Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 144
53113 Bonn
phone: +49 (0) 228 - 73 60353

Project duration

01.11.2015 – 31.10.2018

Funding budget
The total budget of PlaMint is € 687.742. PlaMint is part of the NRW-Strategieprojekt BioSC and thus funded by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.


Bosch, K, Frantzeskakis, L, Vranes, M, Kamper, J, Schipper, K and Gohre, V (2016). Genetic manipulation of the plant pathogen ustilago maydis to study fungal biology and plant microbe interactions. J Vis Exp(115).

Frantzeskakis, L, Courville, KJ, Plucker, L, Kellner, R, Kruse, J, Brachmann, A, Feldbrugge, M and Gohre, V (2017). The plant-dependent life cycle of thecaphora thlaspeos: A smut fungus adapted to brassicaceae. Mol Plant Microbe Interact: Mpmi08160164r.

Kellner, R and Göhre, V (2017). Thecaphora thlaspeos–ein Brandpilz spezialisiert auf Modellpflanzen. BIOspektrum 23(5): 498-500.