Biology of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Plants synthesize and emit a large variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Among these compounds, terpenes and fatty-acid derivatives are the dominant chemical classes with multiple biological and ecological functions. To demonstrate defensive functions of these substances in field or laboratory experiments, however, is difficult and therefore it is still largely unknown how and to which extent these actions are exerted and influenced by the abiotic environment. Our research provides evidence on how and to which extent biogenic VOCs are involved in plant protection and adaptation and how multiple environmental constraints affect plant behavior and biotic interactions (pathogens and herbivores). By elucidating general mechanisms by which VOCs act, our research will enable the use of these compounds as valuable tools for improving plant performance in unfavorable environments (phenotyping) and for defending plants against pathogens and herbivores attack. This will yield important knowledge on natural mechanisms of plant protection, and will therefore provide information necessary to manipulate and regulate these protective compounds with ecological and molecular tools (including GMOs) helping to diminish the use of synthetic chemical products to defend plants against pathogens and pests, thus allowing environmentally friendly plant cultivation.

Selected publications

Rosenkranz M, Schnitzler JP (2016) Plant Volatiles In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichesterdoi:10.1002/9780470015902.a0000910.pub3

Rosenkranz M, Pugh TAM, Schnitzler JP, Arneth A (2015) Effect of land-use change and management on BVOC emissions – selecting climate-smart cultivars.Plant Cell & Environment, 38, 1896-1912

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