Natural Variation

Detlef Weigel

Weigel portrait 2019 square 2
  • 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, but others do not? And why do certain combinations cause genetic incompatibilities? These questions reflect the evolutionary processes that we study: mutation, selection and speciation. We are using the latest sequencing technologies 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 deploy advanced bioinformatic methods, are complemented by phenotype-first projects, in which we use genetics to identify genes responsible for variation in traits such as climate adaptation and disease resistance. The latter work is informed by extensive field experiments and collection efforts that address the role of the microbiome in shaping diversity in the plant immune system.

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 2018 fig 1
    click to enlarge

Genetic change required for survival of Arabidopsis in 2070.

  • Weigel IMPRS 2018 fig 2
    click to enlarge

Topologically Associated Domains (TADs) in the rice genome, determined by Hi-C methods.

Available PhD Projects

Project 1: Massive long-read assemblies of plant genomes

Project 2: Functional analyses of plant microbes and microbiomes

Selected Reading

1) The 1001 Genomes Consortium (2016). 1135 sequenced natural inbred lines reveal the global pattern of polymorphism in Arabidopsis thaliana. Cell 166, 481-491. (D Weigel & M Nordborg, corresponding authors).

2) Karasov TL, Almario J, Friedemann C, Ding W, Giolai W, et al. (2018). Arabidopsis thaliana and Pseudomonas pathogens exhibit stable associations over evolutionary time scales. Cell Host Microbe 24, 168-179.

3) Exposito-Alonso MA, 500 Genomes Field Experiment Team, Burbano MA, Bossdorf O. Nielsen R, Weigel D (2019). Natural selection on the Arabidopsis thaliana genome in present and future climates. Nature 573, 126-129.