Interactions between root and shoot plant induced defenses and their effects on herbivores

P.I. - Prof. Nicole van Dam and Dr. Ainhoa Martinez Medina

Funding sources: German Research Foundation and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)

A holistic approach to elucidate below and aboveground signalling in mycorrhiza induced resistance in tomato - Applications to agriculture

P.I. - Dr. Maria J. Pozo

Funding source: Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness


The role of the signalling molecules NO and ROS in the regulation of symbiotic and pathogenic interactions in plants

P.I. - Dr. Maria Romero-Puertas

Funding source: Excellence Program - Junta de Andalucía



Deciphering plant systemic induced responses underlying interactions between root knot nematodes and shoot herbivores


In natural and agricultural ecosystems, plants suffer herbivory by aboveground and belowground herbivores at the same time. Root herbivores may influence the communities of herbivores associated with the leaves. Reverse interactions, on the other hand, have received little attention so far.

In this project, I aim to understand how shoot herbivory affect the behavior and performance of root parasitic nematodes. I am particularly interested in the transduction pathways underlying this aboverground-belowground interaction. I use Solanum lycopersicum and Solanum dulcamara as crop and wild model plants respectively, to study the effects of herbivory by specialist and generalist herbivores on the parasitism by the root knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita.

I take an eco-metabolomics approach, including transcriptomics and untargeted metabolomics, and manipulative experiments to understand how plants integrate simultaneously induced responses from aboveground and belowground; and how this affects nematodes parasitism.



Project Leader - Dr. Ainhoa Martinez Medina


​Team Members:

Prof. Nicole van Dam - German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Dr. Alexander Weinhold - German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Crispus Mbaluto - German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)


Funding Source

German Research Foundation (FZT 118)

Evaluation and validation of the biocontrol properties of Trichoderma T-78 against fusarium wilt

Company: Microgaia Biotech

P.I. - Dr. Jose A. Pascual


Development of a method for vigor and resistance induction by using the system of peat-blocks in seedling nurseries

Company: Semilleros el Mirador

P.I.- Dr. Jose A. Pascual


Development of an organic liquid product with biocontrol and growth promoting abilities

Company: Abonos Pedrin

P.I.- Dr. Jose A. Pascual


Evaluation of the hormonal content in different vegetal extracts

Company: DAYMSA

P.I.- Dr. Jose A. Pascual


Induced resistance in tomato by beneficial microorganisms – Translating Arabidopsis-derived molecular knowledge on defense signalling

P.I. - Dr. Ainhoa Martinez Medina and Prof. Corné Pieterse

Funding Source: European Program Marie Skłodowska-Curie


Mechanisms regulating priming of plant defenses associated to mycorrhiza induced resistance

P.I. - Dr. Maria J. Pozo

Funding Source: Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation


Criteria for the selection of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to replant semiarid zones, based on molecular and isotopic techniques

P.I. - Dr. Maria del Mar Alguacil

Funding Source: Fundación Séneca


Implementation of a method for inducing plant resistance against pathogens and insects in seedling nurseries

P.I. - Dr. Jose A. Pascual

Funding Source: Spanish Ministry of Environmental Sciences


Development of a method for improving plant performance in seedling nurseries, through the use of Trichoderma fungi

P.I. - Dr. Jose A. Pascual

Funding Source: Comisión Interministerial de Ciencia y Tecnología – CICYT



An integrated "omics" approach to unravel the impact of endophytic fungi on plant-associated insect communities


Microbial symbionts, living inside plant roots are widely spread in nature. They can strongly influence plant-insect interactions through improving plant nutritional status, tolerance to abiotic and biotic stresses, and by inducing plant defenses.  Among them, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (which establish symbiosis with 80% of terrestrial plants) and the opportunistic symbiont Trichoderma (one of the most common isolated genera in the rhizosphere) elicit important changes in plant metabolism. They affect the plant’s transcriptome and metabolome, leading to an enhancement of shoot resistance against insect herbivores. 

Beside this strong direct impact on plant immunity, the impact of microbial root symbionts in plant-insect performance can be further extended to higher trophic levels, affecting herbivores’ natural enemies. Plants emit specific blends of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that serve as signals at the multitrophic level. Herbivorous are able to locate host plants and to assess their value as a resource through changes in the plant’s VOCs bouquet. Furthermore, plants emit volatiles upon herbivore attack that mediate the recruitment of the herbivores’ natural enemies.

In my research, I seek to understand how root associated fungal symbionts affect plant interactions with other community members. I use Solanum lycopersicum (tomato) as model plant to study the effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and Trichoderma fungi on the interaction of plants with aboveground and belowground insects at several trophic levels, including herbivorous insects, natural enemies of herbivorous and pollinators.

I take an integrative multi-omics approach, combining untargeted transcriptomics, metabolomics and volatile profile analysis, as well as manipulative experiments to study these interactions.


Project Leader - Dr. Ainhoa Martinez Medina

​Team Members:

Prof. Nicole van Dam - German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Dr. Alexander Weinhold - German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Dr. Yvonne Pöschl - German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Dr. Maria Pozo – Estación Experimental del Zaidín-CSIC


Funding Sources

German Research Foundation (FZT 118)

Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena - Program to support junior researchers to obtain third-party funding (DRM/2015-02)


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