Secondary metabolites in plant-herbivore interactions

Molecular and Chemical Plant-Herbivore Interactions

How well plants interact with the biotic and abiotic environment determines their survival in nature and yield in agriculture. We elucidate the strategies that plants employ to resist biotic stresses, with a particular focus on the role of plant secondary metabolites in root herbivore interactions. By combining different techniques and plant models in an interdisciplinary approach, we aim at generating a flow of knowledge from single genes to ecological interactions across a gradient from wild systems to agriculture.


Recent Publications

  • Evaluation of primer pairs for microbiome profiling from soils to humans within the One Health framework
    Wasimuddin; Schlaeppi, Klaus; Ronchi, Francesca; Leib, Stephen L.; Erb, Matthias; et al.
    Molecular Ecology Resources  DOI: 10.1111/1755-0998.13215 AUG 2020
  • Engineering bacterial symbionts of nematodes improves biocontrol potential of the western corn rootworm (Feb, 10.1038/s41587-020-0419-1, 2020)
    Machado, RAR; Thonen, L; Arce, CCM; Theepan, V; Prada, F; Wuthrich, D; Robert, CAM; Vogiatzaki, E; Shi, YM; Schaeren, OP; Notter, M; Bruggmann, R; Hapfelmeier, S; Bode, HB; Erb, M
    NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY,  DOI: 10.1038/s41587-020-0478-3, MAR 2020
  • Engineering bacterial symbionts of nematodes improves biocontrol potential of the western corn rootwormMachado, RAR; Thonen, L; Arce, CCM; Theepan, V; Prada, F; Wuthrich, D; Robert, CAM; Vogiatzaki, E; Shi, YM; Schaeren, OP; Notter, M; Bruggmann, R; Hapfelmeier, S; Bode, HB; Erb, MNATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY, DOI: 10.1038/s41587-020-0419-1, FEB 2020
  • Impact of Seasonal and Temperature-Dependent Variation in Root Defense Metabolites on Herbivore Preference in Taraxacum officinale
    Huang, Wei; Bont, Zoe; Herve, Maxime R.; Robert, Christelle A. M.; Erb, Matthias
    Journal Of Chemical Ecology 46(1): 63-75 DOI: 10.1007/s10886-019-01126-9  JAN 2020
  • Spodoptera frugiperda Caterpillars Suppress Herbivore-Induced Volatile Emissions in Maize
    De Lange, Elvira S.; Laplanche, Diane; Guo, Huijuan; Xu, Wei; Vlimant, Michele; Erb, Matthias; Ton, Jurriaan; Turlings, Ted
    Journal Of Chemical Ecology,  DOI: 10.1007/s10886-020-01153-x, JAN 2020
  • Plant defense resistance in natural enemies of a specialist insect herbivore
    Zhang, Xi; van Doan, Cong; Arce, Carla C. M.; Hu, Lingfei; Gruenig, Sandra; et al.
    Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America,  DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1912599116, NOV 12 2019
  • Plant Biology: Evolution of Volatile-Mediated Plant-Plant Interactions
    Erb, M
    CURRENT BIOLOGY, 29 (18):R873-R875; 10.1016/j.cub.2019.07.066 SEP 23 2019
  • Distinct defense strategies allow different grassland species to cope with root herbivore attack
    Herve, MR; Erb, M
    OECOLOGIA, 191 (1):127-139; 10.1007/s00442-019-04479-w SEP 2019
  • Molecular Interactions Between Plants and Insect Herbivores
    Erb, M; Reymond, P. Edited by: Merchant SS
    ANNUAL REVIEW OF PLANT BIOLOGY, VOL 70, 70 527-557; 10.1146/annurev-arplant-050718-095910 2019
  • Root volatiles in plant-plant interactions II: Root volatiles alter root chemistry and plant-herbivore interactions of neighbouring plants
    Huang, W; Gfeller, V; Erb, M
    PLANT CELL AND ENVIRONMENT, 42 (6):1964-1973; 10.1111/pce.13534 JUN 2019
  • Root volatiles in plant-plant interactions I: High root sesquiterpene release is associated with increased germination and growth of plant neighbours
    Gfeller, V; Huber, M; Forster, C; Huang, W; Kollner, TG; Erb, M
    PLANT CELL AND ENVIRONMENT, 42 (6):1950-1963; 10.1111/pce.13532 JUN 2019
  • Molecular Dissection of Early Defense Signaling Underlying Volatile-Mediated Defense Regulation and Herbivore Resistance in Rice
    Ye, M; Glauser, G; Lou, YG; Erb, M; Hu, LF
    PLANT CELL, 31 (3):687-698; 10.1105/tpc.18.00569 MAR 2019
  • Integration of two herbivore-induced plant volatiles results in synergistic effects on plant defence and resistance
    Hu, LF; Ye, M; Erb, M
    PLANT CELL AND ENVIRONMENT, 42 (3):959-971; SI 10.1111/pce.13443 MAR 2019
  • Can Herbivore-Induced Volatiles Protect Plants by Increasing the Herbivores' Susceptibility to Natural Pathogens?
    Gasmi, L; Martinez-Solis, M; Frattini, A; Ye, M; Collado, MC; Turlings, TCJ; Erb, M; Herrero, S
  • Fungal resistance mediated by maize wall-associated kinase ZmWAK-RLK1 correlates with reduced benzoxazinoid content
    Yang, P; Praz, C; Li, BB; Singla, J; Robert, CAM; Kessel, B; Scheuermann, D; Luthi, L; Ouzunova, M; Erb, M; Krattinger, SG; Keller, B
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 221 (2):976-987; 10.1111/nph.15419 JAN 2019
  • Convergent evolution of a metabolic switch between aphid and caterpillar resistance in cereals
    Li, B; Forster, C; Robert, CAM; Zust, T; Hu, L; Machado, RAR; Berset, JD; Handrick, V; Knauer, T; Hensel, G; Chen, W; Kumlehn, J; Yang, P; Keller, B; Gershenzon, J; Jander, G; Kollner, TG; Erb, M
    SCIENCE ADVANCES, 4 (12):10.1126/sciadv.aat6797 DEC 2018
  • The wheat ABC transporter Lr34 modifies the lipid environment at the plasma membrane
    Deppe, JP; Rabbat, R; Hortensteiner, S; Keller, B; Martinoia, E; Lopez-Marques, RL
    JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY, 293 (48):18667-18679; 10.1074/jbc.RA118.002532 NOV 30 2018
  • Volatiles as inducers and suppressors of plant defense and immunity - origins, specificity, perception and signaling
    Erb, M
    CURRENT OPINION IN PLANT BIOLOGY, 44 117-121; 10.1016/j.pbi.2018.03.008 AUG 2018
  • Whole-genome-based revisit of Photorhabdus phylogeny: proposal for the elevation of most Photorhabdus subspecies to the species level and description of one novel species Photorhabdus bodei sp nov., and one novel subspecies Photorhabdus laumondii subsp clarkei subsp nov.
    Machado, RAR; Wuthrich, D; Kuhnert, P; Arce, CCM; Thonen, L; Ruiz, C; Zhang, X; Robert, CAM; Karimi, J; Kamali, S; Ma, J; Bruggmann, R; Erb, M
  • OsLRR-RLK1, an early responsive leucine-rich repeat receptor-like kinase, initiates rice defense responses against a chewing herbivore
    Hu, Lingfei; Ye, Meng; Kuai, Peng; et al.
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST  219(3)SI: 1097-1111  AUG 2018
  • Root exudate metabolites drive plant-soil feedbacks on growth and defense by shaping the rhizosphere microbiota
    Lingfei Hu, Christelle AM Robert, Selma Cadot, Xi Zhang, Meng Ye, Beibei Li, Daniele Manzo, Noemie Chervet, Thomas Steinger, Marcel GA van der Heijden, Klaus Schlaeppi & Matthias Erb
    NATURE COMMUNICATIONS 9: 2738   10.1038/s41467-018-05122-7 JUL 16 2018
Matthias Erb

Prof. Dr. Matthias Erb
University of Bern
Institute of Plant Sciences
3013 Bern

Tel: +41 (0)31 631 86 68

Research topics

  • Biosynthesis of plant secondary metabolites
  • Herbivore foraging behavior
  • Herbivore detoxification of plant metabolites



  • Phytochemistry and genetics of maize (Zea mays)
  • Phytochemistry and molecular biology of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
  • Behavior and metabolism of root herbivores (Diabrotica virgifera, Melolontha melolontha)
  • Environmental RNAi of insects