Growing in more or less dense plant communities, plants constantly compete with their neighbours for limited resources, such as nutrients, water, light, and space, and they have evolved elaborate mechanisms to gain competitive advantage. Our lab studies the molecular effects of phytotoxic compounds that are released by some plant species to inhibit the growth nearby plants, a process known as allelopathy. On the one hand, were are interested in understanding the molecular mode of action of these allelochemicals by identifying the cellular and biochemical processes with which they interfere. Conversely, we aim to identify the genetic and epigenetic basis of resistance to such biochemical attack that allows some species to grow despite the proximity of hostile neighbor species. Another recent focus of the lab has been the role that plant-associated microorganisms might play in allelopathy, by either responding to the plant-derived chemical compounds or by chemically modifying them. Our research combines biochemical, molecular, and genomic approaches, and spans a wide conceptual range, from classical plant physiology to computational biology. Our goal is a better understanding - at the molecular, genetic and organismal level - of this fundamental process that contributes to shaping both natural and agricultural plant communities.
Venturelli S, Belz RG,..., Becker C (2015) Plants Release Precursors of Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors to Suppress Growth of Competitors. Plant Cell 27(11):3175-89.
Becker C, Hagmann J, Müller J, et al. (2011) Spontaneous epigenetic variation in the Arabidopsis thaliana methylome. Nature 480(7376):245-9.