Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research

The Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research carries out basic molecular biological research on plants. The goal of the Cologne-based scientists is to improve conventional breeding methods and to develop environmentally-friendly plant protection strategies for crops. They focus mainly on the evolution of plants, their genetic blueprint, their development and their interactions with the environment. How does a plant's immune system react to pests, for example? How does the time of flowering depend on the seasonally changing length of the day? How does the genetic variability of crops affect how they adapt to specific environmental influences? The botanists, geneticists and plant physiologists work both in the laboratory and in greenhouses, searching for the molecular basis of natural diversity, and thus make innovative contributions to plant breeding.


Carl-von-Linné-Weg 10
50829 Köln
Phone: +49 221 5062-0
Fax: +49 221 5062-674

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS on Understanding Complex Plant Traits using Computational and Evolutionary Approaches

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Department of Plant Developmental Biology


Department Plant Microbe Interactions


Department Comparative Development and Genetics

Large cells for tiny leaves

Scientists identify mechanism that controls leaf growth and shape

A jigsaw puzzle of plant cells

The epidermal cells of many plant organs resemble the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle helping them withstand the high pressure in their interior

Enhancing leaf shape diversity

A small piece of DNA with a large effect on leaf shape

Not without my microbiome

When nodule bacteria supply plants with atmospheric nitrogen, characteristic microbial communities that drive plant growth become established in the root.

Exploding seed pods

A mathematical model explains how popping cress catapults its seeds into the air


Genes against Drought

MPR 3 /2010 Environment & Climate

In many regions of the world, agriculture is threatened by a lack of water. New plant varieties must thus be developed that are especially resistant to drought.

The infestation of crop plants by pathogens can have devastating consequences for world nutrition. Christiane Gebhardt and her collaborators at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research are searching for genes in the potato genome that will make it easier to breed potatoes with disease resistance and other quality traits.

Plant Developmental Biologist (50%)

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne November 14, 2018

Plant Developmental Biologist

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne November 14, 2018

Ten fully funded PhD student positions in the Plant Sciences

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne November 13, 2018

Three Group Leader Positions in Plant Chromosome Biology

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Köln October 05, 2018

To improve crop quality and yield, breeders need to control the fertility of stamens, the male organs that produce pollen within sacs called anthers. For example, it would be ideal to manipulate at will the release of pollen from anthers. However, this firstly requires a detailed understanding of how anther cells themselves activate pollen release. In barley, this activation seems to be triggered by the phytohormone auxin and requires enzymes to separate specific cells from each other to finally open the anthers.


Plant boundary zones initiate development of new meristems

2017 Mulki, Muhammad Aman; Rossmann, Susanne; Theres, Klaus

Plant Research

Boundary zones were previously seen as physical barriers that separate plant tissues and thus allow the development of functional organs. However, recent studies revealed that boundaries, like those between the shoot apical meristem and leaf primordia and those between leaflets, also serve as launching pads for secondary meristem formation and play an important role in determining plant architecture. Interestingly, establishment of boundary zones during shoot branching and complex leaf development is regulated by homologous genes.


Robustness and tunability of the plant immune system

2016 Tsuda, Kenichi; Berens, Matthias L.

Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics Plant Research

Plants sense microbial molecules to trigger innate immunity for protection from pathogens. However, microbes have evolved broad virulence factors that interfere with plant immune components. Therefore, immune mechanisms must be robust to cope with microbial perturbations. In addition, since too much immune response is detrimental for plant fitness, plant immune responses need to be tuned. The scientists study how plant immune signaling networks achieve the properties robustness and tunability using molecular genetics, genomics and computational modeling.


Exploring the role of protein post-translational modifications in the regulation of plant metabolism

2015 Finkemeier, Iris

Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics Plant Research

Depending on the environmental conditions, plants can rapidly alter their metabolism. Post-translational modification of proteins seems to play key roles during this adaptation. Reversible acetylation of lysine residues in proteins has recently emerged as post-translational modification controlling many important cellular functions beyond transcription. The identification of acetylation sites on metabolic enzymes in plants is a first step to uncover its physiological role in metabolism.


Developing the next generation of algorithms to understand the impact of the genotype on the phenotype

2015 Willing, Eva-Maria; Schneeberger, Korbinian

Genetics Plant Research

Individual genetic alterations can have direct impact on the phenotypes of the respective organisms. Such mutations can be useful for functional annotation of the respective regions of the genome and can be found between wildtype and mutant genomes, between distinct individuals of the same species, and between the genomic sequences of diverse species. The group develops new approaches to identify and to distinguish such differences from all other changes that do not affect the phenotypes.

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