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 Plant Developmental Biology


Department Plant Microbe Interactions


Department Comparative Development and Genetics


Root-associated bacteria preferentially colonize their native host-plant roots


Signalling occurring from the response of plant leaves to light and plant roots to microbes is integrated along a microbiota-root-shoot axis


Researchers explore the function of the synaptonemal complex


Evolution can promote novelty by keeping gene expression in check


117 research facilities appeal to the newly elected bodies to remove obstacles for breeding new plant varieties


Lanceolate, ovate, elliptical, entire, serrated, and uni- or multi-pinnate – there are numerous names to describe the variety of leaf morphology. But how does this diversity come about? Miltos Tsiantis from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne and his team are looking for genes that control leaf growth. They have already found one central regulatory element.

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.

Open Postdoc position | Meiosis and reproduction in tomato and wild relatives

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne December 02, 2021

Postdoc position | Molecular adaptations of meiosis in holocentric plants

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne November 08, 2021

Nine fully funded PhD student positions in the computational & experimental plant sciences

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne October 27, 2021

Clonal reproduction through seeds: from model system to crops

2020 Underwood, Charles; Mercier, Raphaël

Plant Research

Hybrid crops are favored in agriculture due to their increased vigor and yield. However, the offspring of hybrid plants is genetically variable due to sexual reproduction. Therefore, new hybrid seeds need to be generated by plant breeders year after year - a time consuming and costly process that is not amenable for all crops. Recent research has demonstrated that sexual reproduction can be avoided to produce clonal seeds maintaining the hybrid state. Here, we summarize novel approaches developed in hybrid Arabidopsis and rice promising a revolution in hybrid breeding and seed production.


Plants rely on their microbiome to protect themselves from pathogens

2019 Thiergart, Thorsten; Getzke, Felix; Hacquard, Stéphane

Plant Research

Fungi and other filamentous microbial eukaryotes, i.e. oomycetes, cause many devastating plant diseases worldwide and are responsible for up to 10% of crop losses. Over the last decade, pesticide application, breeding for plant disease resistance or genetic manipulation of plant immune components have been primarily used to control microbial diseases. However, recent findings indicate that bacterial commensals living benignly inside or at the surface of plant root tissues can confer extended immune functions to the plant host, thereby restricting infection by filamentous microbes.


Epigenetic information storage in plants

2018 Krause, Kristin; Coupland, George; Turck, Franziska

Genetics Plant Research

An epigenetic memory determines how strongly genes are expressed. Polycomb Group protein complexes stably shut down genes by compacting the packaging material of DNA. Recent studies in plants showed that two different and short DNA sequences, called teloboxes and RY motifs, are involved in this epigenetic process. Genes that are under epigenetic regulation are enriched in both motifs, often in combination. Specialized transcription factors, which recognize teloboxes and RY motifs, also directly bind to building blocks of the Polycomb Group and thus stabilize the memory of target genes.


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

2016 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.

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