LBIK10202U  Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions

Volume 2019/2020

MSc Programme in Agriculture
MSc Programme in Biology-Biotechnology


This course provides an overview of the biology of host-microbe interactions at the molecular level. Plant diseases caused by pathogenic microorganisms are among the most important factors affecting quality and yield of crop plants. Resistance is a biological and environmentally-friendly form of plant protection depending on natural, biological defence in plants against pathogenic micro-organisms. The rapid development of biotechnology in plant science is leading to enhanced knowledge of the physiology and molecular biology of plants, and of the crosstalk between microorganisms and plants. The study of these fundamental biological processes leads not only to the improvement of strategies for disease control in plant production, but also to the discovery of molecules and genes with novel applications for industry.

Topics covered include:

- Bacterial pathogenicity and pathogenicity mutants; fungal pathogenicity: toxins and tissue destruction; microbial trophic strategies e.g. biotrophy, necrotrophy; symbiotic and virus interactions with plants.
- Molecular and biochemical basis of plant defence mechanisms, disease resistance including secondary metabolites and antimicrobial proteins. Disease resistance through transgenic plants, new strategies for resistance breeding.
- Genomics, microarrays and virus-induced silencing (VIGS).
- Genetic basis of disease resistance. Plant immunity, effector molecules. Mechanisms of hypersensitive reactions (HR).
- Induced resistance, Elicitation and Signal transduction pathways.
- Mutants in Arabidopsis: how to understand signal transduction pathways in plant defences.
- Counter adaptations: suppressors and detoxification of secondary metabolites.
- Symbiosis
- Microbial stress tolerance.

Learning Outcome

The course gives an understanding of the biology of plant-microbe interactions at the molecular level.
After completing the course the student should be able to:

-Give an overview of the mechanisms by which plants respond and protect themselves against pathogens.
-List cellular signal transduction mechanisms in plants and microorganisms.
-Describe the molecular mechanisms used by pathogens for overcoming host defences.
-Have an understanding of the continuum from mutualistic symbiosis to necrotrophy.

-Explain how the above topics are studied experimentally.
-Interpret primary data from research articles relating to these molecular interactions and apply the knowledge to new situations in biology.

-Discuss the potential of biotechnological and plant breeding technologies for developing disease resistant plants
-Consider the ethical aspects of the use of different approaches (e.g. transgenic) for disease problems associated with plant protection and to put these into perspective.
-See the potential for industrial processes using novel molecules derived from plant-microbe interactions.

Review articles and primary literature. Further information will be available on Absalon.

Knowledge of Molecular Biology, Genetics and Microbiology

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.
Lectures, journal clubs, colloquia

The feedback to the students will be given in different forms: For the journal club where each student will prepare a PowerPoint presentation, it will be given individually in a written form. In journal clubs held in plenum, it will be oral given to each group. Finally for the mock exam exercise, feedback will be a written individually to each student.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 4 hours under invigilation
Written examination, 4 hours, in lecture hall. Weight: 100%
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal examiner

Oral exam if less than 10 students registred

Criteria for exam assesment

See learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 40
  • Theory exercises
  • 18
  • Preparation
  • 104
  • Colloquia
  • 40
  • Exam
  • 4
  • Total
  • 206