Group Leader

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Lothar Willmitzer
Phone:+49 331 567-8200

Department Willmitzer

Genes and Small Molecules

In line with the major focus of the institute, the group of Prof. Dr. Willmitzer tries to contribute to the understanding of biomass and plant growth.

The long term goals can be described as follows:

Protein-metabolite interactome, to unravel small-molecule signaling. 

Interactions between biological molecules enable life. The significance of a cell-wide understanding of molecular complexes is thus of pivotal importance to comprehend life.


Molecular identification of mQTL and overlapping biomass QTL´s

Quantitative genetic approaches are followed to identify novel genes important for metabolic composition and/or plant growth advantage. These studies are performed in close collaboration with Prof. Dr. T Altmann, IPK Gatersleben in Arabidopsis thaliana and with Prof. Dr. Melchinger in Zea mays.


Development of metabolite-based biomarkers for modeling/predicting complex traits

In contrast to genetic markers metabolite based biomarkers are largely neglected in plant breeding. This is very different to the situation in the medicinal field, where clinical biochemistry has since long been the basis for developing metabolite based biomarkers that, often due to a lack of understanding of the underlying causality, serve as surrogate markers for a physiological disorder.


Comparative analysis of the metabolic complement of hybrids and inbred lines (corn) and its suitability for predicting hybrid compatibility

Hybrid vigour or heterosis is a central concept in plant breeding. Despite the agronomical importance of heterosis, its underlying molecular mechanisms remain elusive. Starting from the notion that hybrid vigour should be founded in metabolism we performed a comparative analysis of the metabolome of six parental maize inbred lines and their corresponding fourteen hybrids.


Unravelling the response of biological systems towards abiotic stress using systems approaches (transcriptome-metabolome network/ signalling metabolites)

Plants are exposed to a suite of both biotic and abiotic stresses which furthermore often occur in combination. The capacity to cope with these challenges is a crucial factor in growth and thus finally biomass. Light and temperature represent key parameters influencing photosynthesis and, consequently, potential yield of plants. We have performed a comprehensive study to approach the response on the systems level.


Systems Biology of Lipid Metabolism

A new and rapidly developing research area in our group is plant lipid metabolism. In frame of this project we are taking an integrative approach involving high throughput transcript, protein and lipid analysis in order to better understand the physiological role of plant lipid metabolism as a biochemical system, but also to extend the knowledge on its single constituents: enzymatic and regulatory proteins, biochemical conversions and molecular lipid species.


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