Group Künzler - Molecular defense mechanisms of fungi against bacterial competitors and animal predators

Main content

Defense mechanisms against antagonists, including competitors, pathogens, parasites and predators, are a hallmark of all kingdoms of life. One of the most ancient and conserved mechanisms is chemical defense i.e. the production of defense effector molecules (toxins) against antagonists. Typically, the activity of these effectors is antagonist-specific and their production in the defending organism is tightly regulated, both temporally and spatially, in response to internal or external cues.

In contrast to animal and plant defense, the defense mechanisms of fungi against antagonists are poorly characterized. Due to their large surface area, their absorptive nutrition mode and their immobility, fungi are highly susceptible to bacterial competitors and animal predators and, still, their defense mainly relies on chemical defense.

Our research focuses on the molecular characterization of the defense mechanisms of fungi against bacterial competitors and animal predators with special emphasis on the regulation of these mechanisms. The results of our studies will allow to draw conclusions on the evolution of defense mechanisms in multicellular organisms and to identify novel approaches for fighting bacteria and parasites in crop protection and medicine.

Aphelenchus avenae feeding on hyphae  
Feeding of Aphelenchus avenae, a fungivorous nematode, on hyphae of the mushroom Coprinopsis cinerea. A stylet allows the fungivore nematode to pierce through the fungal cell wall and feed on the cytoplasm of the hyphae. The movie was recorded using a microfluidics device (S. Schmieder and C. Stanley, unpublished).
Copyright 2014, ETH Zürich
Page URL:
© 2017 Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich