The Max Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology investigates the role of chemical signals that mediate the interactions between plants, animals, and their environment. In the institute, ecologists, biochemists, population geneticists and organic chemists are working in close collaboration to investigate and unravel the complexity of chemical communication.
The primary research focus at the institute is the chemical ecology of plants. Because plants are sessile organisms, they are limited in their possibilities to find mates, disperse offspring and escape from herbivores and pathogens. In the course of evolution plants have overcome such constraints by producing a large variety of chemical signaling molecules, that allowed an optimal adaptation to their environment. These so-called allelochemicals are used to attract pollinators and seed dispersers, repel herbivores, ward off pathogens, and to inhibit competitors.
Research at the Max-Planck-Institute of Chemical Ecology focuses on the interactions between plants and their herbivores. Plants produce complex mixtures of organic compounds that act as anti-feedants against herbivores or are toxic. It is thought that the development of these chemical defense mechanisms has evolved under pressure of a wide range of herbivores. However, few experiments have demonstrated the importance of these components for plants in their natural environment. Genetic and molecular tools have a great potential to address these questions with surgical precision.
Further Information: www.ice.mpg.de/