Recent press releases

Switching leaf shapes

Switching leaf shapes

June 24, 2024
Researchers discover a genetic switch in plants that can turn simple spoon-shaped leaves into complex leaves with leaflets [more]
Finding the balance in the plant immune response
Publication in Nature describes novel regulatory mechanism that keeps plant immune responses in check. [more]
Salty soil sensitizes plants to an unconventional mode of bacterial toxicity
A collaborative study between researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology has shown how a single metabolite can render bacteria toxic to plants under high salt conditions. Their findings may have important implications for agriculture and plant health in changing climates.
Mitosis instead of Meiosis
Researchers breed tomato plants that contain the complete genetic material of both parent plants [more]
Capturing the full spectrum of genetic diversity
A research team led by Raphaël Mercier and Korbinian Schneeberger from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne investigated the great genome diversity of the most popular research model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. A valuable toolbox to empower future genetic research. The study is now published in Nature Genetics.
Track and trace members of the plant microbiome with DNA barcodes
A research team led by Paul Schulze-Lefert developed a modular toolkit for tracking bacterial strains colonising plant tissue in competition with other microbiome members. The study is now published in Nature Microbiology.

Researchers solve mystery of how minimalist plant immune molecules become activated<br> 
A new study published in the journal Nature shows that the same phenomenon that occurs when we try to mix oil and water – phase separation – plays an important role in the immune system of plants.
How a common weed builds up explosive force<br /> 
Hairy bittercress has explosive fruit that fire seeds in all directions. MPI researchers discover how these seed pods power their own explosion. [more]
New insights in the regulation of genetic information exchange
A study, led by André Marques, identified chromosome pairing as key in the control for the distribution of genetic material. The findings will provide further insights towards new approaches in plant breeding. [more]
Timing leaf growth<br /> 

Timing leaf growth

February 07, 2024
Leaf heteroblasty is the fascinating natural phenomenon by which plants produce different leaves as they grow and mature. This requires a complex interplay between cellular growth and time, and allows a single plant to manifest a diverse range of leaf shapes and sizes over its lifespan. In a recent paper in the journal Current Biology, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne have now shed light on how this intricate process occurs during leaf development of the small mustard plant Arabidopsis thaliana. By studying the development of juvenile and adult leaves, they identified key differences in their cellular growth patterns, which they found were controlled by a SPL9-CYCD3 transcriptional module. These findings provide us with a deeper understanding of how the passing of time is encoded into organ growth and morphogenesis, and demonstrate the intricate tempo of plant growth and development. [more]
A bacterial toolkit for colonizing plants<br /> 
Using a novel experimental approach, Max Planck researchers have discovered a core set of genes required by commensal bacteria to colonize their plant hosts. The findings may have broad relevance for understanding how bacteria establish successful host–commensal relationships.
Unravelling the basis of the dual role of TFL1 in reproductive development
Reproductive development in plants involves a transition from the vegetative phase during which leaves are continuously produced at the shoot apex, to the reproductive phase marked by the production of inflorescence branches and flowers. Scientists at the Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne have used morphological characterization coupled with protein expression patterns and gene expression profiling to investigate how a regulatory protein called TERMINAL FLOWER 1 carries out two distinct functions at the shoot apex during flowering in the model species Arabidopsis thaliana.
Immune defense as key for plants conquering land<br /> 
A new study, led by Hirofumi Nakagami at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany, demonstrates that one of the two branches of plant immunity was likely to have evolved early during the establishment of plants on dry land. This insight into prehistoric plant immunity may have implications for breeding more resistant plant species.
Structural insights illuminate the arms race between crop plants and fungal pathogens<br /> 
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research shed light on how harmful fungi evade recognition by their plant hosts and aid infection.
A guide through the genome
Plants show enormous variety in traits relevant to breeding, such as plant height, yield and resistance to pests. One of the greatest challenges in modern plant research is to identify the differences in genetic information that are responsible for this variation. A research team led by the "Crop Yield" working group at the Institute for Molecular Physiology at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) and at Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne (MPIPZ), together with the Carnegie Institution of Science at Stanford, has now developed a method to identify precisely these special differences in genetic information. Using the example of maize, they demonstrate the great potential of their method in the journal Genome Biology and present regions in the maize genome that may help to increase yields and resistance to pests during breeding. [more]
Keeping competitors away drives colonization success in the plant microbiota
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, in Cologne, in collaboration with an international team of researchers, have identified natural chemical strategies that bacteria use to keep competitors at bay and successfully proliferate on plants. The study is now published in the journal PNAS.
Scientists provide evidence for new theory of genetic recombination<br /> 
New findings from researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany, suggest an explanation for the century-old mystery of how chromosome recombination is regulated during sexual reproduction. Their findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.
Structure of wheat immune protein resolved – important tool in the battle for food security
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and the University of Cologne in Germany together with colleagues from China have unravelled how wheat protects itself from a deadly pathogen. Their findings, published in the journal Nature, could be harnessed to make important crop species more resistant to disease. [more]
Resolving target-gene specificity via protein–protein interactions<br /> 
A fundamental topic in plant development is how proteins function together in regulatory networks to coregulate the activity of specific target genes. A collaboration between researchers in the groups of George Coupland and Jijie Chai from the Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and the University of Cologne has elucidated an elegant mechanism for how a particular protein–protein interaction cooperatively targets genes in Arabidopsis by affecting DNA conformation. The findings, published in Nature Plants, has wider implications for how transcription factors can achieve regulatory specificity in other developmental contexts.
Speeding up evolution at genome-level by alternative chromosome configuration<br /> 
A research team led by André Marques at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany, has uncovered the profound effects of an atypical mode of chromosome arrangement on genome organization and evolution. Their findings are published in the journal Cell. [more]
Molecules boosting plant immunity identified<br /> 
Two studies published in the journal Science by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany in collaboration with colleagues in China have discovered natural cellular molecules that drive critical plant immune responses. These compounds have all the hallmarks of being small messengers tailored by plants to turn on key defense-control hubs. Harnessing these insights may allow scientists and plant breeders to design molecules that make plants, including many important crop species, more resistant to disease. [more]
A stiff polymer called lignin (stained red) is deposited in a precise pattern in the cell walls of exploding seed pods. Researchers identified three laccase enzymes required to form this lignin. No lignin forms in the cell wall when all three genes are knocked out by CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing
Researchers identify the genes controlling the mechanical structure of exploding seed pods [more]
A two-step adaptive walk in the wild<br /> 
New research in plants that colonized the base of an active stratovolcano reveals that two simple molecular steps rewired nutrient transport, enabling adaptation.
Roots stiffen up to stop growth
The plant hormone cytokinin inhibits root cell growth [more]
barley floret
The study, published in Current Biology, shows a direct link of auxin to pollen fertility. [more]
An island model - uncovering adaption
Wild populations of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana from the Cape Verde Islands reveal the mechanisms of adaptation after abrupt environmental change.
Potato genome decoded

Potato genome decoded

March 03, 2022
The complete sequencing of the genetic material facilitates the breeding of new varieties [more]
Differentiating friends from foes in the fungal root microbiome
A collaborative project between researchers has shed light on the fungal genetic determinants that explain why some fungi from the root microbiome can colonize roots and cause disease more efficiently than others.
Host and resident bacteria join forces to control fungi in plant roots<br /> 
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ) have discovered that diverse root-colonizing fungi can benefit plants, but only when they are kept in check by the host innate immune system and the bacteria residing in roots. [more]
Flowering of annual and perennial plants is delayed by changes in the position and number of <em>MADS</em>-box genes<br /> 
New study highlights the value of using genetic crosses and genomic comparisons between closely-related plant species. [more]
Accurate method for determining active genes<br /> 
The total DNA of an organism is significantly more extensive than the actual genome used. A consortium of German and U.S. researchers involving the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne (MPIPZ) and the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) developed a method in order to determine all regions of the active genome in a single analysis. They present their results using the crop plant maize in the current issue of the journal PLoS Genetics.
Of oil, wine and friends, the oldest is the best: root-associated bacteria preferentially colonize their native host-plant roots
An international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and the University of Åarhus in Denmark have discovered that bacteria from the plant microbiota are adapted to their host species. In a newly published study, they show how root-associated bacteria have a competitive advantage when colonizing their native host, which allows them to invade an already established microbiota. [more]
Belowground microbial solutions to aboveground plant problems
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ) have discovered that signalling occurring from the response of plant leaves to light, and plant roots to microbes, is integrated along a microbiota-root-shoot axis to boost plant growth when light conditions are suboptimal. [more]
Identity of an induced protein complex linking pathogen-activated immune receptors to rapid mobilization of immunity
Scientists from MPIPZ in collaboration with the Sainsbury Laboratory (UK) find a long sought after complex between two conserved plant-specific protein families that connect pathogen-activated immune complexes to defence outputs. [more]
Plant-microbe homeostasis: a delicate balancing act
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have shown that the presence of both immune-suppressive and non-suppressive bacteria in the plant root microbiota is crucial to strike a balance between plant growth and plant defence. [more]
<p>The synaptonemal complex limits meiotic crossover and  imposes crossover interference</p>
A team in the department of Chromosome Biology at MPIPZ in collaboration with INRAE of Versailles France, explored the function of the synaptonemal complex. [more]
<em>MICRORNA</em> genes that promote flowering of Arabidopsis
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne have shown how individual members of the MIR172 gene family promote flowering.

Plant homeodomain proteins promote synthesis of the hormone auxin to help leaves grow wide
Recent findings presented by Dr. Zhongjuan Zhang, Dr. Miltos Tsiantis and their colleagues offer important advances in our understanding of morphological diversity using plant leaves as an example [more]
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