The main research questions of the group focus on molecular aspects of plant reproduction in cereals (maize, wheat, Tripsacum) and Arabidopsis thaliana. In particular we are studying both male and female gametophytes (pollen and embryo sac) with the aim to identify and characterize key players involved in the various functions of the gametophyte cells to understand biological questions such as pollen tube guidance, pollen tube burst and sperm delivery, sperm transport, establishment of embryo sac and embryo polarity as well as asymmetric cell divisions, communication during and after double fertilization, prevention of polyspermy, generation of cell identity as well as paternal and embryonic gene activation after fertilization. Genes specifically expressed in the diverse cells of the embryo sac and in mature pollen have been selected for further analysis. We are now studying the function of genes with homology to transcription factors, genes with homology to polarity genes from animals, but a major focus of the group is still on secreted peptide ligands and their receptors involved in the various cell-cell communication events that are required for female gametophyte cell differentiation, fertilization as well as cell differentiation after fertilization. Additional projects aim to understand the molecular basis of parthenogenesis in plants. We are trying to identify the molecules required to repress/induce parthenogenesis in the apomictic maize relative Tripsacum dactyloides and will use such molecules to engineer parthenogenesis as a component of apomixis (asexual reproduction through seeds) and to increase yield in cereals. Finally, we have recently started research activities to increase biomass and sugar in seeds and whole plants to generate crop plants optimized simultaneously for both food and bioenergy production.
Lehrstuhl für Zellbiologie und Pflanzenphysiologie
Forschung & Lehre