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About Alan Wanke and his project

Alan obtained his Master degree in Biosciences at the University of Münster in 2016. During his studies he mainly focused on protein biochemistry, biophysics and theoretical biology within a variety of plant-related topics. The main objective of his PhD is to understand the role of fungal-derived β-glucans as microbe-associated molecular patterns in plant innate immunity.

Innate sensing of β-glucans in plants

The primary detection of both symbiotic and pathogenic fungi by the plant takes place via so-called pattern-recognition receptors (PRR) at the plasma membrane. Binding of conserved fungal molecules, the microbe-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs), to these receptors constitutes the plant molecular machinery leading to activation of either the symbiotic program or plant defense responses (Zipfel & Oldroyd, 2017). The main building blocks of fungal cell walls are composed of β-glucans, mainly connected via β-1,3 and β-1,6 O-glycosidic bonds. Although the ability of glucan to elicit plant defense responses was described already in the seventies, only little is known about the plant glucan receptors and the downstream molecular network (Fesel & Zuccaro, 2016).

During his PhD, Alan will focus on the identification of the glucan perception machinery in both monocots and dicots. For a broad understanding of the relevance of glucans for plant-microbe interaction, he is also interested in plant downstream responses upon glucan recognition as well as their consequences for invading fungi.