Jun.-Prof. Dr. Katharina Göllner                                                
Phone. +49 (0)241-80 25871
Office hours for students: Tuesdays, 13-14:00, room 42A 356
Other times and during semester break upon request.


Arabidopsis and Asian Soybean Rust

The Project

Plants are continuously exposed to a wide range of pathogens which are present everywhere in nature. Nevertheless, visibly sick plants with diesease symptoms caused by pathogen growth are rather rarely observed in nature - most plants are resistant. This widespread and stable resistance type is based on specific plant mechanisms and also called nonhost resistance (NHR).

In our research group, we analyze the nonhost interaction of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to the biotrophic fungal plant pathogen Phakopsora pachyrhizi, causing Asian soybean rust (ASR) on soybean plants (see Figure 1) by using methods of molecular biology and microscopy.



ASR symptoms on soybeam


Figure 1: Soybean leaflet with ASR rust pustules (B) in comparison to healthy leaflet (A)


The model plant Arabidopsis shows postpenetration nonhost resistance to this pathogen. This means that in most interaction sites, fungal growth is stopped after penetration of the epidermis (see Figure 2). In contrast, host plants such as soybean allow fungal growth within the mesophyll layer (see Figure 2) which results in extensive sporulation starting around nine days after the infection.

ASR has developed to a serious threat of soybean production during the last decades. Originally discovered in Japan, it is now established in all major soybean growing areas worldwide including the U.S. Importantly, no resistant variety is commercially available.

High yield losses up to 80 % are a consequence and additional costs raise high due to extensive use of fungicides. This, in turn, results in strong environmental impact on flora and fauna in and around soybean growing areas. Therefore, breeding of resistant varieties is a major concern and identification of resistance sources is required.


 Fungal development


Figure 2: Scheme of P. pachyrhizi development on soybean and Arabidopsis during the first 48 hours after inoculation


To learn more about the disease and putative resistance mechanisms, we are using molecular genetic techniques to identify the basic mechanisms of Arabidopsis’ nonhost resistance to P. pachyrhizi to answer the following questions:





Asian soybean rust, a fungal plant disease caused by Phakopsora pachyrhizi
Nonhost resistance (NHR)

If all varieties of a plant species is resistant against all isolates of a pathogen species, this plant shows nonhost resistance.


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The Team


KatharinaKatharina Göllner,  Group leader

Katharina studied Biology at the Freie Universität in Berlin and the Università degli Studi di Parma, Italy, with emphasis on plant biology and genetics. For her diploma thesis she worked on maize genetics in the lab of Virginia Walbot at Stanford University, USA. During her PhD she became attached to her so far favorite research subject molecular plant pathology at the Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ) in Cologne, where she worked on powdery mildew resistance of Arabidopsis in the lab of Ralph Panstruga in the department of Paul-Schulze Lefert. In 2006 she joined Uwe Conrath's group in Aachen as a postdoc and started working on resistance of Arabidopsis to Asian soybean rust. Based on this work, she was able to establish her own group in August 2009 as a junior professor in Aachen. She and her team are working on molecular mechanisms of Arabidopsis nonhost resistance against Asian soybean rust. Katharina is funded by BASF Plant Science and the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments. 


Tel: +49 (0)241-8025871




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Research internships, Diploma-, Bachelor- and Master theses can be performed anytime if there is supervision capacity. Please contact Prof. Göllner for more information.


Motivated students aiming at working as a PhD or postdoctoral scientists interested to work within our group are encouraged to apply for a fellowship.


Visiting scientists who wish to perform specific experiments in our lab are always welcome!


In any case: Please contact Prof. Göllner for more information.



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Supplementary Literature


1. Soybean rust

Campe R, Loehrer M, Conrath U, Goellner K (2014) Phakopsora pachyrhizi  induces defense marker genes to necrotrophs in Arabidopsis thaliana. Physiol. Mol. Plant Pathol. in press. link to publication

Langenbach C, Campe R, Schaffrath U, Goellner K, Conrath U (2013) UDP glycosyltransferase UGT84A2/BRT1 is required for Arabidopsis nonhost resistance to the Asian soybean rust pathogen Phakopsora pachyrhizi. New Phytologist 198: 536-545 link to publication

Goellner K, Loehrer M, Langenbach C, Conrath U, Koch E, Schaffrath U (2009) Pathogen profile: Phakopsora pachyrhizi, the causal agent of Asian soybean rust. Molecular Plant Pathology 11(2): 169-177  link to publication
Loehrer M, Langenbach C, Goellner K, Conrath U, Schaffrath U (2008) Characterization of Nonhost Resistance of Arabidopsis to the Asian Soybean Rust. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 21: 1421-1430 link to publication
Miles M, Frederick R, Hartman G (2003) Soybean Rust: Is the U.S. Soybean Crop At Risk? http://www.apsnet.org/online/feature/rust/

2. Nonhost resistance

Lipka U, Fuchs R, Lipka V (2008) Arabidopsis non-host resistance to powdery mildews. Curr Opin Plant Biol 11: 404-411
Lipka V, Dittgen J, Bednarek P, Bhat R, Wiermer M, Stein M, Landtag J, Brandt W, Rosahl S, Scheel D, Llorente F, Molina A, Parker J, Somerville S, Schulze-Lefert P (2005) Pre- and Postinvasion Defenses Both Contribute to Nonhost Resistance in Arabidopsis. Science 310: 1180-1183

3. General plant defense

Doehlemann G, Hemetsberger C (2013) Apoplastic immunity and its suppression by filamentous plant pathogens. The New Phytologist, 198 (3): 1001-16

Dodds PN, Rathjen JP (2010) Plant immunity: towards an integrated view of plant-pathogen interactions. Nat Rev Genet 11: 539-548

Jones JD, Dangl JL (2006) The plant immune system. Nature 444: 323 – 329


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Useful links


Sequence alignment
T-coffee for alignment of multiple sequences
ClustalW for classical alignments of multiple sequences

http://www.ebi.ac.uk/Tools/emboss/align/index.html for pairwise alignment

Protein analysis

http://www.expasy.org/tools/dna.html Translation of DNA into protein sequences

http://elm.eu.org/ finds functional sites in proteins

IntAct Protein interaction database

String Protein interaction database

N-Browse Protein interaction database


Sequence analysis, comparison and manipulation
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/BlAST/ for Blast searches
Reverse complementation

ATHENA Promoter analyses

AtcisDB Arabidopsis cis-regulatory element database

Motif Finder Motif Analysis in Promoter or Upstream Gene Sequences


Databases for genomic sequences of Arabidopsis thaliana and Glycine max



Primer design
Primer3 can exclude sequence parts and regards desired PCR product size
http://signal.salk.edu/tdnaprimers.2.html for T-DNA primer design

artificial miRNA design for efficient gene knockdown


Databases for expression analysis (microarrays) in Arabidopsis thaliana and Glycine max



Literature mining

ISI Web of Knowledge Literature search

iHOP gives all citations of your gene of interest

PubMed  Literature search


Literature management



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Lectures and Seminars


Soft Skill Seminar "Data Evaluation and Scientific Writing" (B.Sc., M.Sc.)

Seminar "Built to Resist: How plants defend themselves" (B.Sc., M.Sc.)

Practical course Vertiefungsmodul Molekular- und Zellbiologie der Pflanzen (B.Sc., 5th semester)

Forschungspraktikum (B.Sc., M.Sc.)


See CAMPUS RWTH for further details.



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