Detlef Weigel

Natural Variation

Max Planck Institute for Biology
Faculty in: TIPP, IMPRS


  • PhD studies at the MPI for Developmental Biology, 1986-88
  • Postdoctoral training at the California Institute of Technology, 1989-93
  • Assistant and Associate Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 1993-2002
  • Director at the MPI since 2002

Research Interest

How do new variants arise in the genome? And why do some increase in frequency, but others do not? These questions reflect the evolutionary processes that we study: mutation, selection and adaptation.
On the one hand, we use the latest genome assembly methods to reconstruct how plant genomes and plant populations have changed over time, especially in response to changes in the climate and surrounding pathogens. On the other hand, we combine large-scale field sampling with molecular and genetic experiments in the lab to understand how microbes and genomic conflict shape genetic diversity, especially at the extremely variable genes that make up the plant immune system.
Our team thrives on a highly integrated model of large-scale genomics, bioinformatics, and experiments in the lab and the field. Some colleagues primarily develop and apply bioinformatic tools, but the majority has competence in both, and we train new colleagues in areas they are less familiar with.
PhD graduates of the Weigel Group have done very well; a very recent example is Moises Exposito-Alonso, who was offered an independent position as Principal Investigator already before graduating and who recently won one of the extremely competitive NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards







Available PhD Projects

Selected Reading

  • Exposito-Alonso MA, 500 Genomes Field Experiment Team, Burbano MA, Bossdorf O. Nielsen R, Weigel D (2019). Natural selection on the Arabidopsis thaliana genome in present and future climates. Nature 573, 126-129.
  • Li L, Habring A, Wang K, Weigel D (2020) Atypical resistance protein RPW8/HR triggers oligomerization of the NLR immune receptor RPP7 and autoimmunity. Cell Host Microbe 27, 405-417.
  • Shalev O, Karasov T, Lundberg DS, Ashkenazy H, Na Ayutthaya PP, Weigel D (2022) Protective host-dependent antagonism among Pseudomonas in the Arabidopsis phyllosphere. Nature Ecology & Evolution 6, 383-396.
  • Voichek Y, Weigel D. (2020) Finding genetic variants underlying phenotypic variation in plants without complete genomes. Nature Genetics 52, 534-540.

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