Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research

Koln, Germany

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research

Koln, Germany

The Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research was originally founded in Müncheberg, Germany in 1928 as part of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft. The founding Director, Erwin Baur, initiated breeding programmes with fruits and berries, as well as basic research on Antirrhinum majus and the domestication of lupins. After the Second World War, the Institute moved west to Voldagsen, and was relocated to new buildings on the present site in Cologne in 1955. The modern era of the Institute began in 1978 with the appointment of Jeff Schell and the development of plant transformation technologies and plant molecular genetics. The focus on molecular genetics was extended in 1980 with the appointment of Heinz Saedler. The appointment in 1983 of Klaus Hahlbrock broadened the expertise of the Institute in the area of plant biochemistry, and the arrival of Francesco Salamini in 1985 added a focus on crop genetics. During the period 1978-1990, the Institute was greatly expanded and new buildings were constructed for the departments led by Schell, Hahlbrock and Salamini, in addition to a new lecture hall and the Max Delbrück Laboratory building that housed independent research groups over a period of 10 years.A new generation of Directors was appointed from 2000 with the approaching retirements of Klaus Hahlbrock and Jeff Schell. Paul Schulze-Lefert and George Coupland were appointed in 2000 and 2001, respectively, and Maarten Koornneef arrived three years later upon the retirement of Francesco Salamini. The new scientific departments brought a strong focus on utilising model species to understand the regulatory principles and molecular mechanisms underlying selected traits. The longer-term aim is to translate these discoveries to breeding programmes through the development of rational breeding concepts. The arrival of a new generation of Directors also required modernisation of the infrastructure. So far, this has involved complete refurbishment of the building that houses the Plant Developmental Biology laboratory , construction of a new guesthouse and library , planning of new buildings for the administration and technical workshops , as well as a new laboratory building completed in May 2012. The new laboratory building includes a section that links all three scientific departments, offices and the Bioinformatics Research Group.CurrentlyTemplate:When? the Institute hosts three scientific departments: Department of Plant Developmental Biology , Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics and Department of Plant Microbe Interactions . Wikipedia.

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News Article | May 24, 2017

Two years ago, plant biologist Teemu Teeri was walking by a train station in Helsinki when he noticed some vivid orange petunias in a planter. The flowers reminded Teeri, who has studied plant pigments at the University of Helsinki, of blooms created in a landmark gene-engineering experiment some 30 years earlier. As far as he knew, those flowers never made it to market. But he was curious, and he stuck a stem in his backpack. Now, that chance encounter has ended up forcing flower sellers on two continents to destroy vast numbers of petunias. Teeri ultimately confirmed that the plants contained foreign DNA, and he tipped off regulators in Europe and the United States, who have identified other commercial strains that are genetically engineered (GE). Although officials say the GE petunias pose no threat to human health or the environment—and likely were unknowingly sold for years—they’ve asked sellers to destroy the flowers, because it’s illegal to sell them in the United States and Europe without a permit. Ironically, proposed revisions to U.S. biotechnology rules now under discussion might have exempted the harmless petunias from regulation. But the petunia carnage highlights the growing complexity of regulating GE plants, which have a long history of showing up where they aren’t allowed and can be hard to track. Purveyors of petunia varieties with names such as Trilogy Mango and African Sunset were likely unaware that orange-pigmented petunias are the product of a prominent biotechnology study. In a 1987 paper, a team led by plant geneticist Peter Meyer, then with the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany, showed that inserting a maize gene into a petunia enabled it to produce the pigment pelargonidin and take on a salmon color. The 30,000 petunias that the team planted in a trial were the first transgenic plants ever released into the field in Germany, notes Meyer, now at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. Public resistance was fierce at the time, he recalls: “The term transgenic was basically used synonymously with toxic.” The controversy didn’t deter S&G Seeds, an affiliate of the Dutch seed company Zaadunie, from licensing the technology. And in 1995 it reported creating petunias with more stable gene expression—and a vivid orange color—fit for commercial breeding. Another company, Rogers NK, also collaborating with Zaadunie, won clearance from U.S. regulators for an orange petunia field trial in Florida. But the companies apparently never commercialized the variety, Meyer says—whether because of unfriendly public perceptions, regulatory hurdles, or simple economics. “I had almost forgotten about it.” Because he knew that history, Teeri was initially flummoxed by the orange blooms he saw at the Helsinki train station. “This petunia was sort of cheating me, fooling my eye,” he recalls. “There must be a yellow pigment on top” that created the orange appearance, he thought. But months later his tests revealed a DNA insert matching what the 1987 paper described. Other orange petunia seed varieties he bought online also had the tell-tale alterations. Teeri then made a decision he now regrets: spilling the beans to a former Ph.D. student who had taken a job as a regulator at the Finnish Board for Gene Technology. “I told too much,” he says. “I should have asked a hypothetical question,” about what would happen if regulators discovered GE petunias that had not gone through the proper regulatory channels. On 27 April, Evira, Finland’s food safety body, called for eight petunia varieties to be removed from the market. Other European nations also began investigations. By 2 May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was on alert. It worked with breeders to perform a standard GE screen, searching suspect petunias’ DNA for the cauliflower mosaic virus sometimes used to control the expression of an inserted gene. Like several early workhorses of genetic engineering, the virus is officially considered a “plant pest,” and plants containing its DNA are subject to APHIS regulation. The testing has so far revealed 10 varieties of GE petunia, and 21 others have been “implicated as potentially GE.” In a guidance to the industry, it gave growers and sellers several options: Incinerate, autoclave, bury, compost, or dispose of the plants in a landfill. The doomed petunias may number in the thousands, though industry groups couldn’t provide precise estimates. Some companies appear to have unwittingly purveyed the plants for nearly a decade, says Michael Firko, deputy administrator of APHIS’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services division in Riverdale, Maryland. A member of his team even discovered the orange flowers in a centerpiece at a graduation party earlier this month. “She was tempted to take a sample, but she didn’t want to destroy the nice floral display,” Firko says. This is far from the first discovery of unauthorized GE plants. Aventis CropScience’s StarLink GE corn variety, approved in the United States only for use in animal feed, popped in up in commercial taco shells in 2000, forcing a nationwide recall of hundreds of supermarket products. When GE wheat appeared on an Oregon farm in 2013, USDA launched an investigation that linked the herbicide-resistant crop to agricultural chemical giant Monsanto. The event caused several Asian countries to postpone imports, though the agency ultimately found no evidence that GE wheat had entered the commercial market. In this case, USDA says it isn’t planning to pursue or punish flower firms for what seems to be an honest mistake with few implications for international trade. And it’s also unlikely to do the difficult forensics that would be necessary to trace the links between the modern petunia varieties and their ancestors. Biotech conglomerate Sandoz, which owned Zaadunie when the GE petunia was first developed, merged to form Novartis in 1996, which then joined its agribusiness with AstraZeneca’s in 2000 to form Syngenta. “I don’t know what happened between 1987 and today, but somewhere along the line, it would seem that somebody lost sight of the fact that the original color breakthrough in question here had been achieved through genetic modification,” says Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president in the Washington, D.C., office of the trade group AmericanHort. And companies often use their competitors’ varieties to develop new ones, he notes. “Nobody would have ever thought to check” for foreign genes, he says. The petunias are likely an isolated case—not harbingers of more stealthy GE flower discoveries to come, Regelbrugge says, but as genetic engineering becomes more common in the industry, seed companies may begin to track GE varieties more carefully. Detecting engineered plants is only likely to get harder. Varieties made with newer gene-editing technologies—such as CRISPR, for example—may not contain any definitive evidence of tinkering. Meanwhile, APHIS is mulling draft regulations—still in early stages of public comment—under which the presence of plant pest DNA alone would no longer trigger oversight. Strict regulation of a product based simply on the method that produced it is “quite irrational,” says Teeri, who hopes to publish a paper on his discovery of the GE petunias. Teeri also wonders whether the petunias will offer a more sympathetic emblem of genetically modified organisms that have aroused strong opposition in both the United States and Europe. Unlike large-scale agricultural crops engineered to benefit farmers, orange GE petunias focus on “a consumer trait,” he says. “The consumer has chosen to buy it because it’s beautiful.” U.S. consumers aren’t being asked to rip the GE petunias from their yards and planters, but even those that evade destruction won’t survive the winter in most parts of North America, so are likely to be history by next spring. Correction, 5/26/17, 2:58 p.m.: As a result of an editor’s error, petunias were identified as an annual plant. According to Eulalia Palomo of the website, petunias are “often referred to and grown as annuals” but “are technically warm climate perennials. They grow year round in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11.”

Kemen E.,Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Current Opinion in Plant Biology | Year: 2014

Microbial organisms sharing habitats aim for maximum fitness that they can only reach by collaboration. Developing stable networks within communities are crucial and can be achieved by exchanging common goods and genes that benefit the community. Only recently was it shown that horizontal gene transfer is not only common between prokaryotes but also into eukaryotic organisms such as fungi and oomycetes benefiting communal stability. Eukaryotic plant symbionts and pathogens coevolve with the plant microbiome and can acquire the ability to communicate or even collaborate, facilitating communal host colonization. Understanding communal infection will lead to a mechanistic understanding in how new hosts can be colonized under natural conditions and how we can counteract. © 2014.

Garcia A.V.,Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
PLoS pathogens | Year: 2010

An important layer of plant innate immunity to host-adapted pathogens is conferred by intracellular nucleotide-binding/oligomerization domain-leucine rich repeat (NB-LRR) receptors recognizing specific microbial effectors. Signaling from activated receptors of the TIR (Toll/Interleukin-1 Receptor)-NB-LRR class converges on the nucleo-cytoplasmic immune regulator EDS1 (Enhanced Disease Susceptibility1). In this report we show that a receptor-stimulated increase in accumulation of nuclear EDS1 precedes or coincides with the EDS1-dependent induction and repression of defense-related genes. EDS1 is capable of nuclear transport receptor-mediated shuttling between the cytoplasm and nucleus. By enhancing EDS1 export from inside nuclei (through attachment of an additional nuclear export sequence (NES)) or conditionally releasing EDS1 to the nucleus (by fusion to a glucocorticoid receptor (GR)) in transgenic Arabidopsis we establish that the EDS1 nuclear pool is essential for resistance to biotrophic and hemi-biotrophic pathogens and for transcriptional reprogramming. Evidence points to post-transcriptional processes regulating receptor-triggered accumulation of EDS1 in nuclei. Changes in nuclear EDS1 levels become equilibrated with the cytoplasmic EDS1 pool and cytoplasmic EDS1 is needed for complete resistance and restriction of host cell death at infection sites. We propose that coordinated nuclear and cytoplasmic activities of EDS1 enable the plant to mount an appropriately balanced immune response to pathogen attack.

Pecinka A.,Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Trends in plant science | Year: 2013

Transcriptional gene silencing (TGS) is an epigenetic mechanism that suppresses the activity of repetitive DNA elements via accumulation of repressive chromatin marks. We discuss natural variation in TGS, with a particular focus on cases that affect the function of protein-coding genes and lead to developmental or physiological changes. Comparison of the examples described has revealed that most natural variation is associated with genetic determinants, such as gene rearrangements, inverted repeats, and transposon insertions that triggered TGS. Recent technical advances have enabled the study of epigenetic natural variation at a whole-genome scale and revealed patterns of inter- and intraspecific epigenetic variation. Future studies exploring non-model species may reveal species-specific evolutionary adaptations at the level of chromatin configuration. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Kombrink E.,Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Planta | Year: 2012

Jasmonates are lipid-derived compounds that act as signals in plant stress responses and developmental processes. Enzymes participating in biosynthesis of jasmonic acid (JA) and components of JA signaling have been extensively characterized by biochemical and molecular-genetic tools. Mutants have helped to define the pathway for synthesis of jasmonoyl-l-isoleucine (JA-Ile), the bioactive form of JA, and to identify the F-box protein COI1 as central regulatory unit. Details on the molecular mechanism of JA signaling were recently unraveled by the discovery of JAZ proteins that together with the adaptor protein NINJA and the general co-repressor TOPLESS form a transcriptional repressor complex. The current model of JA perception and signaling implies the SCFCOI1 complex operating as E3 ubiquitin ligase that upon binding of JA-Ile targets JAZ proteins for degradation by the 26S proteasome pathway, thereby allowing MYC2 and other transcription factors to activate gene expression. Chemical strategies, as integral part of jasmonate research, have helped the establishment of structure-activity relationships and the discovery of (+)-7-iso-JA-l-Ile as the major bioactive form of the hormone. The transient nature of its accumulation highlights the need to understand catabolism and inactivation of JA-Ile and recent studies indicate that oxidation of JA-Ile by cytochrome P450 monooxygenase is the major mechanism for turning JA signaling off. Plants contain numerous JA metabolites, which may have pronounced and differential bioactivity. A major challenge in the field of plant lipid signaling is to identify the cognate receptors and modes of action of these bioactive jasmonates/oxylipins. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.

Andres F.,Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research | Coupland G.,Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Nature Reviews Genetics | Year: 2012

Plants respond to the changing seasons to initiate developmental programmes precisely at particular times of year. Flowering is the best characterized of these seasonal responses, and in temperate climates it often occurs in spring. Genetic approaches in Arabidopsis thaliana have shown how the underlying responses to changes in day length (photoperiod) or winter temperature (vernalization) are conferred and how these converge to create a robust seasonal response. Recent advances in plant genome analysis have demonstrated the diversity in these regulatory systems in many plant species, including several crops and perennials, such as poplar trees. Here, we report progress in defining the diverse genetic mechanisms that enable plants to recognize winter, spring and autumn to initiate flower development. © 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

Schulze-Lefert P.,Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research | Panstruga R.,Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Trends in Plant Science | Year: 2011

Any given pathogenic microbial species typically colonizes a limited number of plant species. Plant species outside of this host range mount nonhost disease resistance to attempted colonization by the, in this case, non-adapted pathogen. The underlying mechanism of nonhost immunity and host immunity involves the same non-self detection systems, the combined action of nucleotide-binding and leucine-rich repeat (NB-LRR) proteins and pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). Here we hypothesize that the relative contribution of NB-LRR- and PRR-triggered immunity to nonhost resistance changes as a function of phylogenetic divergence time between host and nonhost. Similarly, changes in pathogen host range, e.g. host range expansions, appear to be driven by variation in pathogen effector repertoires, in turn leading to reproductive isolation and subsequent pathogen speciation. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Saijo Y.,Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Cellular Microbiology | Year: 2010

Like in animals, cell surface and intracellular receptors mediate immune recognition of potential microbial intruders in plants. Membrane-localized pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) initiate immune responses upon perception of cognate microbe-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs). MAMP-triggered immunity provides a first line of defence that restricts the invasion and propagation of both adapted and non-adapted pathogens. The Leu-rich repeat (LRR) receptor protein kinases (RKs) define a major class of trans-membrane receptors in plants, of which some members are engaged in MAMP recognition and/or defence signalling. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) quality control (QC) systems monitor N-glycosylation and folding states of the extracellular, ligand-binding LRR domains of LRR-RKs. Recent progress reveals a critical role of evolutionarily conserved ERQC components for different layers of plant immunity. N-glycosylation appears to play a role in ERQC fidelity rather than in ligand binding of LRR-RKs. Moreover, even closely related PRRs show receptor-specific requirements for Nglycosylation. These findings are reminiscent of the earlier defined function of the cytosolic chaperon complex for LRR domain-containing intracellular immune receptors. QC of the LRR domains might provide a basis not only for the maintenance but also for diversification of recognition specificities for immune receptors in plants. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Schneeberger K.,Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Nature Reviews Genetics | Year: 2014

The long-lasting success of forward genetic screens relies on the simple molecular basis of the characterized phenotypes, which are typically caused by mutations in single genes. Mapping the location of causal mutations using genetic crosses has traditionally been a complex, multistep procedure, but next-generation sequencing now allows the rapid identification of causal mutations at single-nucleotide resolution even in complex genetic backgrounds. Recent advances of this mapping-by-sequencing approach include methods that are independent of reference genome sequences, genetic crosses and any kind of linkage information, which make forward genetics amenable for species that have not been considered for forward genetic screens so far. © 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited.

Gebhardt C.,Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Trends in Genetics | Year: 2013

Efficiency and precision in plant breeding can be enhanced by using diagnostic DNA-based markers for the selection of superior cultivars. This technique has been applied to many crops, including potatoes. The first generation of diagnostic DNA-based markers useful in potato breeding were enabled by several developments: genetic linkage maps based on DNA polymorphisms, linkage mapping of qualitative and quantitative agronomic traits, cloning and functional analysis of genes for pathogen resistance and genes controlling plant metabolism, and association genetics in collections of tetraploid varieties and advanced breeding clones. Although these have led to significant improvements in potato genetics, the prediction of most, if not all, natural variation in agronomic traits by diagnostic markers ultimately requires the identification of the causal genes and their allelic variants. This objective will be facilitated by new genomic tools, such as genomic resequencing and comparative profiling of the proteome, transcriptome, and metabolome in combination with phenotyping genetic materials relevant for variety development. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

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