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Natascha Heßler

Sugar uptake of the Brassicaceae smut fungus Thecaphora thlaspeos

Smut fungi are biotrophic organisms that infect many important crop plants like maize, barley and potato. To reduce yield losses and breed plants that are more resistant to the pathogens, smut fungi are heavily studied in the last years and serve as model organisms in research. During the biotrophic growth phase, the fungi need to take up all nutrients from their respective host plant. Sugars are one of the most prominent nutrients that need to be taken up. They provide energy for further development, as well as being building blocks for biomolecules and function as signaling molecules. In my project, I want to analyze in planta sugar uptake of the Brassicaceae smut fungus Thecaphora thlaspeos, which infects the natural host plants Arabis hirsuta and Arabis alpina. Under lab conditions, the fungus can colonize the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, for which sugar production, transport and storage are widely understood. During my research, I want to answer the following questions:

  1. Which transporters are used by the fungus to take up sugars from its host plant?
  2. What are the characteristics of these transporters (substrate specificity, kinetics)?
  3. How does the plant cope with the additional demands of the pathogen?

Starting date: 01.06.2019 / Qualification Fellow; 01.09.2020 / Doctoral Researcher

Thesis committee members: Vera Göhre, Michael Feldbrügge, tba


Courville KJ, Frantzeskakis L, Gul S, Haeger S, Kellner R, Heßler N, Day B, Usadel B, Gupta YK, van Esse HP, Brachmann A, Kemen E, Feldbrügge M, Göhre V (2019) Smut infection of perennial hosts: the genome and the transcriptome of the Brassicaceae smut fungus Thecaphora thlaspeos reveal functionally conserved and novel effectors  New Phytologist 222 (3): 1474–92. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.15692.