CRC1644: Phenotypic plasticity in plants – Mechanisms, constraints, and evolution

Natural SciencesMathematicsComputer and information sciencesPhysical sciencesBiological sciencesAgricultural SciencesAgricultural biotechnologyOther agricultural sciences

Plants colonized almost every habitat on Earth by adapting their growth and development to different environments. This success hinges on phenotypic plasticity, a genotype's ability to produce different phenotypes in different environments, and understanding its molecular basis and evolution is a fundamental goal in biology. Our CRC conducts interdisciplinary research, addressing this challenge across biological scales, crucial for understanding and optimizing plant adaptability in a changing world.


Genotypes can differ in their plastic responses to similar environments, and natural populations show genetic diversity in plasticity on which selection can act. Thus, plasticity is a heritable trait, limited by associated costs and constraints, such as genetic correlations between traits. However, understanding the genetic and molecular basis of natural variation in plasticity, its evolution, and constraining factors remains a gap. We ask: What makes different genotypes respond differently to the same environment?

Our CRC will tackle this fundamental question in biology by following four common questions across all individual projects:

  1. What is the genetic and molecular basis of variation in phenotypic plasticity of key traits to environmental cues in natural populations?
  2. How do the genes that influence the plasticity of a trait act mechanistically, and to what extent are the molecular mechanisms shared across taxa?
  3. Are there genetic correlations between the extent of phenotypic plasticity for different key traits, and if so, what is their molecular basis?
  4. Which type of natural selection acts on the phenotypic plasticity of key traits, and is there evidence for recent positive selection on plasticity?
Contact Information
Chair: Speaker of the Collaborative Research Centre
Coordinator: Prof. Michael Lenhard
Telephone: +49 331 9775580
Deadlines: January 31st, 2024
Places: 30 PhD positions (public sector payscale TV-L E13 grade, 65%)
Scholarships: no scholarships