What we do

Welcome in the Nick-Lab

Molecular Cell Biology (Prof. Dr. Peter Nick)

Fritz-Haber-Weg, Gbd. 30.43 (Biology Tower), 5. floor. e-mail. How to find us

Interview in Biospektrum




the journal with the longest tradition in cell biology (Springer-Nature). We publish it. more...


The Origin of Grapevine

Four years of hard work, almost 4000 genomes - the fruit of this effort has now been published in Science. The Wild Grapevine Collection of the KIT had an important role here. It could be shown that Grapevine was domesticated twice independently, once in the Caucasus to produce wine, a second time in the Near East to get table grapes. During its migration to the West, there were numerous love affairs with local wild grapevines, giving rise to the large diversity of grapevines. This project joined people from 16 countries, despite sometimes difficult political circumstances and allows a deep look into the complex history of this crop plant that not only founded civilisations, but was also one of the first globally traded goods, breaching the borders of geography, language, and religion. The treasure of knowledge generated in this project has not even been scratched - during the time, when grapevine, by an interplay between climatic disruptions and human migration, conquered many regions, it collected genes that help to cope with adverse conditions. These genes can help now to safeguard viticulture against the consequences of climate change - this is exactly, what we do now in our Interreg Upper Rhine project Kliwiresse.

Science article

Interview with the Washington Post

Press release by the KIT

Youtube on the impact of the project for the region

Rice for Climate Change

Climate Change is already affecting food security. This is not only due to drought, but also other challenges, such as the increasing salinity of soils, when sea levels rise. Especially in the coastal rice production areas in Egypt, Bangladesh, or Vietnam, this has become a pertinent problem. Dr. Michael Riemann, who is heading our Plant Stress unit, investigates, therefore, which role jasmonates play in this respect, the plant version of adrenalin. He discovered, that, surprisingly, not only the formation of jasmonates, but also their decay plays an eminent role for stress resilience. For this research, especially the cooperation with Dr. Thierry Heitz at the IBMP in Strasbourg was central (funded, among others, by EUCOR), but also other partners in Germany and worldwide. Dr. Riemann has, therefore, installed the German Rice Research Network to coordinate the research on climate resilience in this central food crop. More in a broadcast by the CAMPUS-RADIO.

The Root is in the Flower

Simultaneously with the renaming of the Botanical Institute into Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter Institute for Plant Sciences, a new flower ecology course headed by Dr. Heiko Hentrich is offered. This links the plant sciences in Karlsruhe to the roots of their founderfather, J.G. Kölreuters, whose name is linked with this research on plant sexuality. The current floral ecology course represents an introduction into the field and is subdivided into two parts. The first part took place in March and deals with the theoretical foundations of floral ecology. In June, the second part will address real-world examples at the JKIP Experimental Station. It is planned to offer this course every year as part of the teaching portfolio.







The new "Strasburger"

127 years ago Eduard Strasburger founded the textbook of botany, which appeared now in the 38. edition - this makes the "Strasburger" the biology textbook with the longest history. Peter Nick contributed a couple of 100 pages to the topics structure and function of the plant body and plant development. The "Strasburger" pursues the goal to depict the entire knowledge on plants, comprehensively, up-to-date, and at the same time filtered. Even though it had never been easier to acquire information, the problem is progressively to filter relevant from irrelevant. Textbooks are, therefore, not outdated, but more important than ever. more...


The State Teaching Award 2015 was given to Peter Nick and Mathias Gutmann. The money was used to found the Forum. Beyond faculties and disciplines, we debate here on controversial topics.

The topic in the Summer Term 2023: "What is Truth". more...

Tue, 23. May 2023, 15:45, Großer Saal im GDH Bld. 01.52: Reduktionismus, Perspektivismus und Wahrheit




Tumour Drug From a Living Fossil

The Hainan Head Yew (Cephalotaxus hainanensis) is a living fossil that has survived only on the Chinese island Hainin. In the resin ducts of its barks, the valuable harringtonine accumulates, so far the most potent mean against leucemia. The few remaining specimens of this precious tree must be guarded to prevent that the costly bark is stolen, because the bark is traded with eight times the price of gold. In a cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agriculture the first part of harringtonine formation could be elucidated. This is now published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of the USA (PNAS). A core finding of this work were the results from Dr. Huapeng Sun, who, during a two year research stay at the KIT, funded by the Helmholtz-OCPC programme, succeeded to identify the decisive enzyme, which forms the template for harringtonins. This paves the way for rebuilding the pathway biotechnologically in tobacco cells. Biotechnology might help, therefore, to rescue this tree from extinction.Broadcast in the Campus Radio . Summary in the National Geographic



What is New? How Climate Stress Sickens Plants

Esca & Co is actually a stress-induced disease. The responsible fungi can live in the wood for many years without causing symptoms. However, when plants are exposed to climate stress they kill their host. The outbreak of Esca & Co is, therefore, steered by chemical signals. In a cooperation between the Institute for Biologically Active Compounds (IBWF) in Kaiserslautern we succeeded to clear up two of these signals. Under stress, ferulic acid accumulates in the wood of the grapevine trunk, because this precursor of lignin cannot be any longer converted. The fungus Neofusicoccum parvum has "learnt", to sense ferulic acid as signal for the ensuing crisis of its host and to respond by secretion of Fusicoccin A. Also Fusicoccin A is a signal. It evokes in grapevine programmed cell death, a type of cellular suicide that is actually meant for defence against biotrophic pathogens. We succeeded now to elucidate this sophisticated manipulation by chemical signals and publish this in the journal Plant Cell & Environment.

Khattab I, Fischer J, Kazmierczak A, Thines E, Nick P (2022) Hunting the plant surrender signal activating apoplexy in grapevines after Neofusicoccum parvum infection. Plant Cell Environment doi.org/10.1111/pce.14468 - pdf




Was is New?  Bioherbicide from Mint

We need plant protection, but our herbicides challenge the environment, poison the groundwater, and cause collateral damage to harmless or even beneficial organisms. We need more specificity. This is possible - all living beings use numerous signals to influence others for their own sake. Can we use this? That is what we did: Mints are very competitive and smell quite differently, depending on the species. We found that these scents are signals, by which they persuade other plants into suicide. For Horsemint we have investigated this in detail and developed on the base of this knowledge an application, by which we can suppress Bindweed, a pertinent problem in organic cereal production.


195. Sarheed M, Schärer HJ, Wang-Müller QY, Flury P, Maes C, Genva M, Fauconnier ML, Nick P (2023) Signal, not poison – Horsemint essential oil for weed control. Agriculture 13, 712 - pdf





What our research is about

Life is not easy. There are two ways to cope – animals run away, plants adapt. We want to understand, how. The key are plant cells, since they mediate shape, adaptation and the enormous diversity of plants.




Evolution solves problems in a sustainable, highly diverse manner. Can we valorise this diversity? We work to protect and use diversity. We develop methods, to safeguard consumer protections in times of globalisation. more... Amaranth, the Superfood of the Inka, as functional food. Wir try to raise the content of Omega-3-Fatty Acids, to develop a vegan alternative for sea fish (EU-CORNET, 2020-2022) together with the University of Hohenheim and partners from Peru. more...
Plants are masters of adaptation. How do they overcome stress? We work on jasmonic acid, the plant "adrenalin", but also about the immune system of grapevine. more.. Ecosystem on chip for sustainable plant protection (Interreg Science Offensive, 2019-2022). more...
Plant cells can self organise without a "Big Brother". The ability of each individual cells to acquire its own direction, is central. How does this work? more... Cold resistance of strawberries (BMBF, 2018-2020)