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? Why do some increase in frequency, but others do not? And why do certain combinations cause genetic incompatibilities? These questions reflect the evolutionary processes that we study: mutation, selection and speciation.
Our genotype-first approaches, for which we deploy advanced bioinformatic methods, are complemented by phenotype-first projects, in which we use genetics to identify genes responsible for variation in traits such as climate adaptation and disease resistance. The latter work is informed by extensive field experiments and collection efforts that address the role of microbial pathogens and the microbiome in shaping diversity in 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

Currently not recruiting PhD students

Selected Reading

  • Karasov TL, Almario J, Friedemann C, Ding W, Giolai W, et al. (2018). Arabidopsis thaliana and Pseudomonas pathogens exhibit stable associations over evolutionary time scales. Cell Host Microbe 24, 168-179.
  • 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.
  • Monroe JG, Srikant T, Carbonell-Bejerano P, Becker C, Lensink, M, et al. (2022) Mutation bias reflects natural selection in Arabidopsis thaliana. Nature, 602, 101–105.

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