Wirthmüller Group

Lennart Wirthmüller

FU Berlin, Institute of Biology,
Königin-Luise-Str. 12-16, 14195 Berlin

Head of the group

Dr. Lennart Wirthmüller (Room 104)

phone: +49 30 838-53777


twitter: @lab_robot

General information

Stress conditions negatively affect plant growth and crop productivity. To optimize energy homeostasis and ensure survival plants constantly respond to abiotic and biotic stressors in their environment. Our research focusses on understanding how plants detect distinct types of stress and how this information is integrated at the molecular level.

Our group is part of the research focus area Dahlem Centre of Plant Sciences at FU-Berlin.


Regulation of plant stress signalling by protein ADP-ribosylation (DFG-funded project)

Enzymes of the Poly-(ADP-ribose)-polymerase (PARP) group influence signal transduction in response to both, attack by plant pathogens and adverse abiotic conditions such as drought, heat or high light stress. PARP proteins comprise an N-terminal sensor domain and a C-terminal catalytic domain. When activated by cellular stress conditions PARPs catalyse the covalent attachment of ADP-ribose units onto themselves and onto target proteins. We aim to obtain a better understanding of how this post-translational modification affects plant stress responses.

Role of enzymatically inactive PARP-like proteins in plant stress signalling (DFG-funded project)

In addition to the canonical PARPs that are conserved in higher eukaryotes plants evolved a unique group of PARP-like proteins. These proteins are characterized by a central PARP-like domain but differ from canonical PARPs in their N- and C-terminal domains. Arabidopsis RCD1, the founding member of this protein family, lacks enzymatic activity. Nevertheless RCD1 and sequence-related proteins from rice and wheat also influence stress responses. We aim to elucidate how RCD1-type proteins affect plant stress signalling at the level of transcriptional regulation.

To gain a better understanding of plant PARPs and PARP-like proteins we use state-of-the-art molecular biology tools and plant stress assays. We also aim to obtain structural information on PARPs and PARP-like proteins to build a molecular framework that will allow us to understand the molecular function of these proteins in signal transduction. For a structural characterization of PARPs and PARP-like proteins we collaborate with the group of Prof. Markus Wahl at FU Berlin and the BESSY II synchrotron at Helmholtz Centre Berlin.