Identifying the genes important in plant ecology and evolution

Our work focuses on the ecology and evolution of plants. We are especially interested in finding the genes that are important in ecologically relevant plant traits.

Because they are fixed in place, plants are much more likely to adapt to local environmental conditions than other organisms. However, it remains unclear how plants simultaneously adapt to both abiotic and biotic stresses. Which genes are involved? Does pleiotropy play a role? Plants, like other higher organisms, are colonized by a wide variety of microbes (e.g. viruses, bacteria, fungi), and the genes within the microbiome often outnumber those in the host. Do the genes within the microbiome also shape plant adaptation?

Our studies use tools from population genetics, molecular genetics, statistics and ecology to investigate how the plant-microbiome forms and whether the structure of the microbiome shapes host phenotypic variation.


Recent Publications

  • Using transects to disentangle the environmental drivers of plant-microbiome assembly
    Mittelstrass, Jana; Sperone, F. Gianluca; Horton, Matthew W.
    Plant Cell And Environment 10.1111/pce.14190  DEC 2021
  • Characterizing both bacteria and fungi improves understanding of the Arabidopsis root microbiome
    Bergelson, J; Mittelstrass, J; Horton, MW
    SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 9 10.1038/s41598-018-37208-z JAN 10 2019
  • The genetic architecture of freezing tolerance varies across the range of Arabidopsis thaliana 
    Horton, Matthew W.; Willems, Glenda; Sasaki, Eriko; et al. 
    PLANT CELL AND ENVIRONMENT, 39 (11): 2570-2579 10.1111/pce.12812  NOV 2016
  • Genome-wide association study of Arabidopsis thaliana leaf microbial community 
    Horton, Matthew W.; Bodenhausen, Natacha; Beilsmith, Kathleen; et al. 
    NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 5: 5320 NOV 2014  Article (Details)
  • Genomic variability as a driver of plant-pathogen coevolution? 
    Karasov, Talia L.; Horton, Matthew W.; Bergelson, Joy 
    CURRENT OPINION IN PLANT BIOLOGY, 18: 24-30 APR 2014 Article (Details)
  • Bacterial Communities Associated with the Leaves and the Roots of Arabidopsis thaliana 
    Bodenhausen, Natacha; Horton, Matthew W.; Bergelson, Joy 
    PLOS ONE, 8 (2): e56329 FEB 2013 Article (Details)
  • GWAPP: A Web Application for Genome-Wide Association Mapping in Arabidopsis 
    Seren, Uemit; Vilhjalmsson, Bjarni J.; Horton, Matthew W.; et al. 
    PLANT CELL, 24 (12): 4793-4805 DEC 2012  Article (Details)
Matthew Horton

Dr. Matthew Horton
University of Zurich
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
8008 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 634 82 18

Research topics

  • Plant evolutionary ecology
  • The factors that shape the plant microbiome
  • Diversity within the microbiome
  • The role of the microbiome in adapting to extreme environments



  • Statistical plant genetics
  • Validating promising candidate genes
  • Plant metabolomics
  • Plant breeding