MGPP-Logo U. Krämer M. Piotrowski O. Soltani Vinod Kumar Natalia Wozniak Usman Anwer Fakultät


Project “Dynamics of Cadmium concentrations in Leaves in response to a challenging Environment” (DyCLE) granted by the European Committee

General project information

The mechanisms by which hyperaccumulator plants accumulate large quantities of toxic metals in their leaves remain a mystery. Is this attributed only to genetic control, or could this be the result of acclimation to the environment over the years? This project aims to answer these questions by studying cadmium (Cd) accumulation in populations of Arabidopsis halleri. Study outcomes will help to find better methods of using hyperaccumulators for cleaning up metal-contaminated soils that are unsafe for agriculture. The project is performed in the host laboratories of the supervisor Prof. Dr. Ute Krämer at Ruhr University Bochum and of the co-supervisor Prof. Dr. Caroline Müller at Bielefeld University. This project is funded by the European Committee and referred to Dr. Filip Pošćić, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (H2020-MSCA-IF-2018-845234).

Project description

Recently, the host group observed an unusually large variation in leaf cadmium (Cd) concentrations within few A. halleri populations growing on non contaminated (non-metalliferous) soils. Very little is known about the endogenous and environmental factors determining the exceedingly rare accumulation of Cd in high amounts (hyperaccumulation). In A. halleri, Cd hyperaccumulation (> 100 µg Cd g-1 leaf dry biomass) is selective for the non-essential Cd(II) in the presence of a large excess of more abundant chemically similar nutrient cations in the soil solution, for example those of iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn). The aim of DyCLE project is to uncover the causes of the unusually large variation in leaf Cd concentrations in some populations of A. halleri. This will provide insights into a novel aspect of ecology. Within this project, we are considering the elemental defense hypothesis and the metal toxicity-based allelopathic interference hypothesis (an enrichment of metal in the soil around a hyperaccumulator plant that interferes with the growth of competing plants). We will also test if glucosinolates (organic compounds acting as a plant defensive compounds against insects) are accumulated in leaves, as well (joint effect hypothesis). Finally, we aim to understand the heritability and genetic architecture of within-population variation in Cd hyperaccumulation.

Figure 1 One of the Arabidopsis halleri populations under investigation is located at (A) SVN Alps, where you can find A. halleri with (B) no and (C) with evident herbivory damage. (D) The same population exhibits large variation among individuals in leaf Cd accumulation, ranging from 5 up to 350 µg Cd g-1 leaf dry biomass.


Figure 2 Caterpillars commonly found on and around Arabidopsis halleri in the field: (A) Noctuidae Noctuinae and (B) Hyloicus asiaticus Butler, 1875 (Sphingidae).

Project’s updates (e-newsletter)

November 2019

February 2020

  • We started experiments in plant growth chamber for testing the response of extreme plants under emulated herbivory.

July 2020

  • We monitored the selected plants for the second time in the field and we are currently comparing ionomics data with the previous sampling data.

September 2020

November 2020

  • free clipart by uihere.comProject for a BSc (3 months) and MSc (9 months) thesis in Environmental Science now available! A fascinating broader research project on plant physiology, metals and plant-insect interactions: an ideal opportunity to get in touch with Environmental Science, Ecology and Evolution. Please contact me or Prof. Dr. Ute Krämer!

Click here for the official »Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions« website:


Official Fellowship-Website

Associated Scientists

  • Dr. Filip Pošćić
    Dr. Filip Pošćić, Postdoc
    Office: 3/73 (+49 234/32-24302)
    Lab: 3/64 (+49 234/32-24296)
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  • Ute Krämer
    Prof. Dr. Ute Krämer
    Head of Department
    Office: 3/30  (+49 234/32-28004)
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