Detlef Weigel

Natural Variation

Max Planck Institute for Biology Tübingen
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. 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. In parallel, 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 experimentation 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 extremely well; a recent example is Moises Exposito-Alonso, who was offered an independent position as Principal Investigator already before graduating with a PhD and who is among the inaugural class of HHMI Freeman-Hrabowski Scholars.


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.
  • 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.
  • Monroe JG Srikant T, Carbonell-Bejerano P, Becker C, Lensink M, Exposito-Alonso M, Klein M, Hildebrandt J, Neumann M, Kliebenstein, Weng M-L, Imbert E, Ågren J, Rutter MT, Fenster CB, Weigel D (2022). Mutation bias reflects natural selection in Arabidopsis thaliana. Nature 602, 101-105.
  • Wlodzimierz P, Rabanal FA, Burns R, Naish M, Primetis E, Scott A, Mandáková T, Gorringe N, Tock AJ, Holland D, Fritschi K, Habring A, Lanz C, Patel C, Schlegel T, Collenberg M, Mielke M, Nordborg M, Roux F, Shirsekar G, Alonso-Blanco C, Lysak MA, Novikova PY, Bousios A*, Weigel D*, Henderson IR* (2023). Cycles of satellite and transposon evolution in Arabidopsis centromeres. Nature 618, 557-565. *co-corresponding authors.
  • Chen J, Li L, Kim JH, Neuhäuser B, Wang M, Thelen M, Hilleary R, Chi Y, Wei L, Venkataramani K, Exposito-Alonso, MA, Liu C, Keck J, Barragan AC, Schwab R, Lutz U, Pei Z-M, He S-Y, Ludewig U, Weigel D*, Zhu W* (2023). Small proteins modulate ion channel-like ACD6 to regulate immunity in Arabidopsis thaliana. Molecular Cell, in press. *co-corresponding authors.
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