ERC funding for pioneering plant research

ERC funding for pioneering plant research

Molecular biologist Philip Wigge and biochemist Gert Bange have been awarded the highly endowed ERC Advanced Grants by the European Research Council for their innovative projects in plant research.

ERC-Preisträger: Philip Wigge/Gert Bange
Received highly endowed ERC Advanced Grants: Plant molecular biologist Philip Wigge and biochemist Gert Bange.

Whether pathogenic fungi or rising temperatures: plants are increasingly suffering the consequences of climate change, putting pressure on agriculture as a food sector. What mechanisms have plants developed to protect themselves against pests or changing environmental conditions? Marburg biochemist Gert Bange and Brandenburg molecular biologist Philip Wigge are addressing precisely these questions. The two scientists have now been awarded the prestigious ERC grant from the European Research Council for their pioneering research. The researchers' work will thus be supported with around 2 million euros each over five years.

Temperature adaptation of plants

Philip Wigge from the Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (IGZ) in Großbeeren will study the temperature adaptation of plants. Over the course of evolution, plants have developed a variety of strategies to cope with changing conditions. For instance, plants must be able to quickly detect information on the ambient temperature and adapt their metabolism in order to survive. This is where the project "TIPTOP - Temperature Integration via Phase Change and Translation of Proteins in Plants" comes in. In this project, the molecular biologist wants to find out how plants can determine a correct temperature signal even if the environmental conditions are subject to strong fluctuations. Research into the mechanisms by which plants detect temperature and adapt their behavior is of particular importance for agriculture in times of rapid climate change and is therefore being funded by the European Research Council with a total of 2.14 million euros.

Molecular plant defense against fungal attack

Insights into the molecular processes of the plant are also the focus of Gert Bange's research. The biochemist at the University of Marburg is conducting research on Kiwellin proteins. These proteins have antibody-like properties and can specifically protect plants against fungal attack at the molecular level. In corn, for example, there are 20 different kiwellins. The biochemist is convinced that individual kiwellins can inhibit the harmful effector molecules of the harmful fungus Ustilago maydis and thus support the plant's immune response. In the project "KIWIsome - Kiwellins in the plant defense against pathogenic invaders", the Marburg researcher now wants to identify the most promising kiwellins and analyze them in more detail in order to be able to use them specifically as protection for different plant species against pathogenic invaders. He wants to investigate how plants can defend themselves against such molecular weapons. The European Research Council is supporting the project with a total of 2.4 million euros.

With the ERC Advanced Grants, the European Research Council aims to promote cutting-edge research in Europe.