Natural Variation

Detlef Weigel

detlef weigel 16
  • PhD studies at the MPI for Developmental Biology, 1986-88
  • Postdoctoral training at the California Institute of Technology, 1989-93
  • Assistant and Associate Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 1993-02
  • Director at the MPI since 2002

Research Interest

How do new variants arise in the genome? Why do some increase in frequency? And why do certain combinations cause genetic incompatibilities? These questions reflect the evolutionary processes of mutation, selection and speciation, and we study all three. We have been early adopters of new sequencing technologies, and have been using these to characterize patterns of genome and epigenome divergence within and between species as well as metagenomes. We are particularly excited about the opportunities being offered by new long-read sequencing technologies.

Our genotype-first approaches, for which we have developed a series of advanced bioinformatic methods, are complemented by phenotype-first projects, in which we use forward genetics to identify genes responsible for variation in adaptive traits such as flowering, growth and disease resistance. The latter work is now being complemented by field experiments that address the role of the microbiome in shaping diversity in the plant immune system. Finally, we have become interested in the rapid evolution of herbicide resistance.

Our team thrives on a highly integrated model of large-scale genomics, bioinformatics, and experiments in the lab and the field. Some students perform only experiments, and some students apply and develop only bioinformatic tools. However, the majority has developed competence in both, and we are very willing to train students in areas they are less familiar with.

  • Weigel IMPRS Fig 1
    click to enlarge

Genome scale analyses of spontaneous differences in DNA methylation in Arabidopsis thaliana.

  • Weigel IMPRS Fig 2
    click to enlarge

Autoimmunity seen in F1 plants (middle) after different wild Arabidopsis thaliana strains (left and right) are crossed

Available PhD Projects

No projects offered in the 2017 selection.

Selected Reading

1) Becker C, Hagmann J, Müller J, Koenig D, Stegle O, et al (2011). Spontaneous epigenetic variation in the Arabidopsis thaliana methylome. Nature 480, 245-249.

2) Chae E, Bomblies K, Kim ST, Karelina D, Zaidem M, Ossowski S, Martin Pizarro C, Laitinen RA, Rowan BA, Tenenboim H, Lechner S, Demar M, Habring-Müller A, Lanz C, Rätsch G and Weigel D. (2014). Species-wide genetic incompatibility analysis identifies immune genes as hot spots of deleterious epistasis. Cell 159, 1341–1351.

3) Wang C, Liu C, Schwab R, Becker C, Lanz C and Weigel D. (2015) Genome-wide analysis of local chromatin packing in Arabidopsis thaliana. Genome Res. 25, 246-256.