In my lab we investigate all aspects related to the evolution of plants and their pathogens, including comparative genomics, population genetics, molecular phylogenetics, taxonomy, molecular ecology, and the molecular interactions of effectors and targets. An inportant aspect o f this is synthesis across disciplines to deduce concepts that cannot be framed based on the results of a specific area of research.
Syntesis connects research findings on various topics to create new concepts. By this, it generates a framework in which new hypotheses can be devolped to advance scientific knowledge.
Our comparative genomics research is centred on the evolution of pathogenicity over various timescales, ranging from population genomics aiming at a better understand local adaptation of hosts and pathogens to makroevolutionary processes related to the convergent evolution of plant and pathogen traits.
For understanding the molecular evolution of plants and pathogens, high resulution population genetics can be helpful for detecting patterns of co-evolution and for identifying functional domains. But these investigations also allow to reconstruct past reactions to climate change and to predict demographic changes as a result of future climate change.
Molecular phylogenetics and dating are important tools to understand the mid- to long-term evolution of plants and pathogens. They allow for the detection of host jump events and also help to delineate related species.
Molecular and polyphasic taxonomy
For science communication, a sound (reflecting natural relationships) taxonomic classification of organisms in of key importance. An incorrect (not reflecting natural relationships) classification can lead to numerous misconceptions. This can have an impact on research, e.g. by comparing organisms that share the same genus name and thus seem to be related but are in fact phylogentically distant. But wrong taxonomy can also have an economic impact, e.g. when plant pathogen species are lumped on the basis of a similar morphology or an assumed broad host range but are phylogentically distinct.
Molecular ecology is a wide field, dealing with using molecular biology methods as a tool to address the ecology of organisms. For example, the molecular methods enable the detection of asymptomatic infections by endophytic plant pathogens and environmental DNA can be used to detect the past or current presence of pathogens or endangered species.
Molecular interactions of effectors with the plant environment
The interaction of hosts and pathogens is effected on the molecular level, where pathogenicity effectors interact with their targets in the hosts to enable colonisation and nutrient uptake. Thus, the evolution of pathogenicity effectors are of key importance when it comes to understanding the evolution of (pathogenic) symbiosis. We approach this topic informed form comparative genomics and population genetics to uncover core effectors and key structural features involved in efector action.