Metabolite sensing

Most organisms use small metabolites called hormones that are recognized by receptor proteins to regulate gene expression and development. When the metabolite and specialized receptor physically interact this sets off a regulatory cascade leading to altered gene expression causing changes in development and physiology.

More recently, it is becoming well established that there are a large number of metabolites including primary and secondary metabolites that have the potential to alter gene regulation in plants and animals. Our work is showing that this includes the specialized defense compounds glucosinolates as a potential means for the plant to measure the effectiveness of its own defense response.

3-OH-propylglucosinolate inhibits root growth in a dose-dependent manner

3-OH-propylglucosinolate inhibits root growth in a dose-dependent manner

The structurally specific recognition of glucosinolates suggests that the plant contains specialized receptor proteins to measure levels of specific metabolites to properly tune the transcriptome during herbivore and pathogen attack. To find these specialized receptor proteins for glucosinolates and the downstream receptor cascades, we conducted a series of genetic screens and genomics experiments. We aim at validating these receptors and unraveling how the plant measures its own metabolic processes.


Francisco M, Joseph B, Caligagan H, Li B, Corwin JA, Lin C, Kerwin R, Burow M, Kliebenstein DJ (2016) The defense metabolite, allyl glucosinolate, modulates Arabidopsis thaliana biomass dependent upon the endogenous glucosinolate pathwayFront Plant Sci 7: 774. DOI:10.3389/fpls.2016.00774

Francisco M, Joseph B, Caligagan H, Li B, Corwin JA, Lin C, Kerwin RE, Burow M, Kliebenstein DJ (2016) Genome wide association mapping in Arabidopsis thaliana identifies novel genes involved in linking allyl glucosinolate to altered biomass and defenseFront Plant Sci 7: 1010. DOI:10.3389/fpls.2016.01010

Malinovsky FG, Thomsen MF, Nintemann SJ, Jagd LM, Bourgine B, Burow M, Kliebenstein DJ (2017) An evolutionarily young defense metabolite influences the root growth of plants via the ancient TOR signaling pathway. Elife. Dec 12;6. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.29353

Katz E, Bagchi R, Jeschke V, Rasmussen ARM, Hopper A, Burow M, Estelle M, Kliebenstein DJ (2020) Diverse allyl glucosinolate catabolites independently influence root growth and development. Plant Physiol. 2020 Jul; 183(3) 1376-1390. DOI: 10.1104/pp.20.00170, PMID: 32321840