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Junior research group VirusInteractNachwuchsgruppe VirusInteract

Junior research group VirusInteract

Research focus

  • Molecular plant virology
  • Interactome analysis of plant cell and virus
  • Plant viruses in biotechnology
  • Mechanisms of plant virus resistance

The aim of our research is to analyze and characterize the molecular mechanisms and interactions between plant cell & virus. Plant pathogens belonging to the families of Geminiviridae and Nanoviridae cause serious crop damage worldwide. These viruses have the capacity to re-program the cell to its favors by use of multifunctional virus proteins and interaction with host factors. We want to identify these functions and interaction partners with special focus on suppression of host pathogen response and intra- and intercellular viral transport to gain basic insights into virus infection and cellular functions.

Research projects

  • Analyzing plant stress granules in response to plant viruses

There is increasing evidence that, similar to mammalian cells, plant cells also utilize SGs for posttranscriptional gene control. Surprisingly, composition, function, and (dis)assembly mechanism of plant SGs is poorly investigated. Furthermore, there are only a few studies, which link biotic stress, e.g. virus infection with plant SGs, whereas there are numerous studies describing the role and the importance of SGs in counteracting viral infections in human or animal diseases. Therefore, we will stress the questions, if the Arabidopsis G3BP (a key enzyme for SG formation) is also essential in plant SGs formation (by KO and OEX approaches) and if we can identify other plant homologues of mammalian SGs (proteomic approach). Is G3BP function also affected by plant viruses to hamper proper SGs function and can we use this system to elucidate conserved mechanisms? Thus, the overall aim of this part of the study is to analyze and to characterize plant SGs and to elucidate their role in plant stress response, with special emphasis on viral infections.

This is a DFG funded project.


  • Development of a viral-based CRISPR/Cas-system for potato (DeviCCpo)

Plant genome editing is achieved by expression of sequence-specific nucleases (SSN). DNA-free RNA virus vector-mediated expression of SSNs is a promising approach for transgene integration-free targeted mutagenesis in plants. However, such a DNA-free RNA virus vector-system has not been fully established yet. The proposed project aims to develop an RNA virus-based CRISPR/Cas9-system to introduce gene-specific knock-outs in plants, as a proof-of-concept, but also for a novel application in potato. Second growth occurs when potato plants are grown under elevated temperatures and results in an up to 100% loss of marketable tubers. We will target a potato gene which will significantly improve tuber yield under heat stress. In addition, the RNA virus-based concept opens the possibility to transform meristematic tissue. Consequently, the RNA virus-based CRISPR/Cas9-system will be applied not only to potato leaf discs but also onto eyes of microtubers to simplify the technique and to enable gene targeting in a genotype independent manner.
Thus, the proposed project will not only develop a novel CRISPR/Cas9 delivery system, but also a novel application technique and, in addition, will assess a novel gene target in potato of commercial interest.

This is a BMBF sponsored project.




  • Molecular plant virology of gemini- and nanoviruses

Gemini- and nanoviruses are serious plant pathogens infecting plants, among them important crop plants. The mechanism of gemini- or nanoviral intra- and intercellular transport is still a matter of debate and the transport complex is unknown. We want to identify host factors involved in viral intra- and intercellular transport by a proteomic approach to gain further insight in the underlying mechanism of virus movement, and in addition, characterize the unkown function of the nanoviral proteins U1, U2 and U4.