Dr. Anja Hörger
University of Salzburg
Department of Ecology and Evolution
Tel.:+43 662 8044-5501
Our research aims to understand the genetic, evolutionary and ecological processes driving adaptation of plants to their biotic and abiotic environment. Thereby we focus specifically on plant-pathogen coevolution, that is the evolution of the plant immune system in response to changing pathogen (viruses, bacteria, fungi) populations, and investigate the impact of various environmental conditions (salt, drought, metalliferous soils) on these processes.
Deciphering this interplay of biotic and abiotic stress responses in plants is of importance to understanding the impact of climate change on species persistence and adaptation, in particular for species occurring in fragmented and/or anthropogenic habitats such as industrial, polluted sites. We therefore focus on naturally occurring plant populations, which cover diverse habitat ranges and/or grow in anthropogenically influenced habitats.
Our current main project investigates the role of heavy metals in plant disease resistance and the interplay between adaptation to abiotic stress imposed by heavy metals in the environment and pathogen resistance in plants accumulating heavy metals. Other research projects aim to investigate the impact of coevolution with bacterial and fungal pathogens on plant genome evolution using as model systems wild tomato species, which occur in mesic to arid conditions in South America.
To tackle these questions, we integrate different fields of biology and employ a diverse range of state-of-the-art experimental and bioinformatics approaches including population genetics/genomics, transcriptomics, experimental evolution, biochemical assays and plant-microbial bioassays. Students thus have the opportunity to acquire skills in various molecular, biochemical, computational and ecological techniques.
Shindo, T, Kaschani, F, Yang, F, Kovács, J, Tian, F, Kourelis, J, Hong, TN, Colby, T, Shabab, M, Chawla, R, Kumari, S, Ilyas, M, Hörger, AC, Alfano, JR, and Van der Hoorn, RAL (2016) Screen of non-annotated small secreted proteins of Pseudomonas syringae reveals a virulence factor that inhibits tomato immune proteases. PLoS Pathogens, 12(9):e1005874.
Ilyas, M, Hörger, AC, Bozkurt, TO, Van den Burg, HAm Kaschani, F, Kaiser, M, Belhaj, K, Smoker, M, Joosten, MHA, Kamoun, S, and Van der Hoorn, RAL (2015) Functional divergence of two secreted immune proteases of tomato. Current Biology, 25(17):2300-6.
Hörger AC*, Fones HN*, and Preston GM (2013) The current status of the elemental defense hypothesis in relation to pathogens. Frontiers in Plant Science, 4:395.
Hörger AC, and Van der Hoorn RAL (2013) The structural basis of specific protease–inhibitor interactions at the plant–pathogen interface, Current Opinion in Structural Biology, 23: 842-850.
Hörger AC, Ilyas M, Stephan W, Tellier A, Van der Hoorn RAL, and Rose LE (2012) Evolution of the tomato Rcr3 resistance gene family is driven by balancing selection for activation of the defence response. PLoS Genetics, 8(7): e1002813.
*These authors contributed equally.