Research – Overview
The long-term goal of our research is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying adaptive traits. The group of Markus Schmid is using an array of approaches, from whole-genome studies to cell biology, to dissect the genetic networks controlling flowering, a quintessential adaptive trait. There has been some overlap with Detlef Weigel’s group, which has been studying microRNAs (miRNAs) that affect plant development as well as mechanisms of miRNA biogenesis and specificity.
The focus of the Weigel group today is mostly on genetic diversity, which is being studied on several different levels. In addition to forward genetic analyses of wild Arabidopsis thaliana strains, we are examining sequence variation and its impact on a spectrum of phenotypes, including hybrid performance, on a whole-genome, whole-species scale. Such studies benefit tremendously from knowledge about the genomes of other species, and we have taken the lead in assembling genome sequences for several A. thaliana relatives. These projects are flanked by efforts in the group of Hernán A. Burbano, who is applying ancient DNA methods to unlock the knowledge stored in herbaria. Finally, to extend findings in plants to animals, Christine Dreyer has been developing genetic and genomic resources for the guppy, Poecilia reticulata, a classical model of ecological genetics.
In all of these areas, second-generation sequencing is playing a major role. The department has been at the forefront of developing bioinformatic methods for the analysis of Illumina (Solexa) data, and has been using these for a range of applications, from sequencing A. thaliana strains to mapping of transcription factor binding sites and one-step mutation identification. The exploding amount of whole-genome information requires radically new ways of mining such data, which is the mission of Karsten Borgwardt in the department, whose group is co-sponsored by the Department of Empirical Inference at the MPI for Biological Cybernetics (director Bernhard Schölkopf).
For additional information, please follow the links on the left to the individual projects. If you are interested in joining the department, please contact the individual project leaders highlighted above.