Plant Immunity

We have a long-standing interest in the chemical sense of plants for microbial substances called "elicitors". Perception of such elicitors by the plant induces the first line of active defense of the plants. This resembles "innate immunity" in animals, where perception of "pathogen-associated molecular patterns" (PAMPs) by Toll-like receptors induces a general inflammatory response as a first line of defense against infection. Hence, plants may serve as a general model for innate immunity in infection biology and systems biology.


Perception of "MAMPs and DAMPs by PRRs in Plants" (SNF, until 2016)

Regulation of plant receptor kinases in pattern triggered immunity (SNF, until 2014)

Elucidation of the root immune system (SNF Sinergia, until 2014)

Endogenous danger peptides (until 2015)

Other projects by former group members

Arbuscular Mycorrhiza (Mohamed Al'Yayha-ei)

PSC Syngenta (Manfred Heinlein, Franck Vazquez)

RNA Silencing (Franck Vazquez)

RNA Signalling (Manfred Heinlein)

Plant Epigenetics (Etienne Bucher)

Taxonomic and functional diversity of mycorrhizahl fungi (Pierre-Emanuel Courty)

Molecular Plant Virology (Mikhail Pooggin)


We have a long-standing interest in the biology of fructan accumulation and metabolism in plants. Fructans are polymers of fructose ultimately derived from the fructosyl moiety of sucrose, and they are synthesized by a number of different fructosyl transferases. Recently, a number of cDNAs have been cloned representing both fructosyl transferases as well as fructan hydrolases from various plants. Sequence comparison has shown that all these enzymes are most likely derived from a primordial invertase, i.e. a hydrolase cleaving sucrose.

See publication list.


Forests are key landscape elements of the Swiss Alps. They have always been and still are of great importance for human beings and animals with regard to protection and shelter and as a source of timber and firewood. Human activities, the global change of the climate, atmospheric pollutants and natural catastrophes affect the forests in the Alps in many eye-catching and much-studied ways, but there is a neglected below-ground part to this. All forest trees in the Alps are completely dependent on a symbiosis of their roots with fungi, called ectomycorrhizal fungi. These fungi mobilize minerals from the soil and transfer them to the trees. In exchange the trees deliver assimilated carbon to the fungi. A given ectomycorrhizal fungus can connect roots of several trees, such that fungi and roots form together the so-called "wood wide web".

See publication list.