Plants defend themselves when they are attacked by insects. I study plant-insect interactions in a wild wine, the bittersweet nightshade Solanum dulcamara. As a chemical/molecular field-ecologist, I investigate the defense strategies of this plant on ecological, chemical and molecular scales. Very recently, we discovered a new form of extrafloral nectar that is secreted directly from the herbivore-inflicted wounds on the plant. This nectar attracts ants for indirect defense and may represent a first step in the evolution of nectaries. I also characterize the transcriptomic and metabolomic changes of the plant in response to herbivory and the phytohormonal regulation of the plant‘s inducible defenses under various biotic and abiotic stress conditions.
Kafle, D., Hänel, A., Lortzing, T. Steppuhn, A. and Wurst, S. (2017) Sequential above- and belowground herbivory modifies plant responses depending on herbivore identity. BMC Ecology. 17:5
Lortzing, T., Calf, O.W., Böhlke, M., Schwachtje, J., Kopka, J., Geuss D., Kosanke, S. van Dam, N.M. and Steppuhn, A. (2016) Plant-bleeding for defence: Extrafloral nectar secretion from wounds of Solanum dulcamara. Nature Plants. 2(5): 16056
Nguyen, D, D'Agostino, N, Tytgat, TO, Sun, P, Lortzing, T, Visser, EJ, Cristescu, SM, Steppuhn, A, Mariani, C, van Dam, NM, and Rieu, I (2016), Drought and flooding have distinct effects on herbivore-induced responses and resistance in Solanum dulcamara. Plant, Cell & Environment, doi: 10.1111/pce.12708.