Volatile Chemical Diversity in Fungi

In nature, plants are in continuous communication with other organisms and live in holobiontic systems with microbes. Beneficial microbes, such as mycorrhizal fungi or rhizobacteria, can prime the whole plant to become more resistant against various environmental factors. How microbial infection or mutualism affects the volatile profiles of the plant and/or of the microbes/fungi, and whether these changes are involved in plant phenotype-specific priming to biotic and abiotic stressors, remains to be elucidated. In this project we characterize the VOC profiles (by GC-MS and online PTR-ToF-MS) of different fungal species from different functional guilds (mycorrhizas, saprophytes, pathogens) selected from about 350 sequenced fungal species currently available. Data mining will provide information whether fungal guilds or phylogenetically related fungal species can be distinguished by typical VOC profiles. Fungal species from each functional group that have strongly contrasting VOC profiles will be used as "senders" to challenge the two "receiver" plants Arabidopsis and poplar. In these bioasssays (head space co-cultivation) we will analyze plant fitness parameters (growth, root surface, biotic and abiotic stress tolerance) and molecular responses.

Specific questions in this project are:

  1. Are fungal VOC patterns characteristic for different functional groups (mycorrhizas, saprophytes, pathogens)?
  2. Do plants recognize functional groups of fungi on the basis of group-specific VOC profiles?
  3. Does the recognition of fungal VOCs promote reactions in the plant that affect the fitness of the host or of the interacting organisms?

Selected Publications

Weikl, F, Ghirardo A, Schnitzler JP, Pritsch K (2016) Sesquiterpene emissions from Alternaria alternata: Effects of age, nutrient availability, and co-cultivation with Fusarium oxysporum. Scientific Reports 6, srep22152.

Müller A, Faubert P, Hagen M, zu Castell W, Polle A, Schnitzler J-P, Rosenkranz M (2013) Volatile profiles of fungi - Chemotyping of species and ecological functions. Fungal Genetics and Biology, 54, 25-33.

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