PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in Jan 2023


Truffle production: an affair of three?

Erika Kothe , Gerd Gleixner , Katrin Krause

Project description

Among the ectomycorrhizal fungi, basidiomycetes and ascomycetes can undergo a mutual symbiosis with host trees. The interactions with the surrounding soil, as well as water and nutrient acquisition from soil, is performed by the fungal partner, while the tree provides photosynthesis products. In addition to the intimate relationship to the host with the ectomycorrhizal root tips, environmental interactions influenced by soil microbes as well as the hydrosphere in reach of the soil hyphae of the fungus are essential to structure the relationship. Cultivating the high-priced truffles in truffle gardens has been attempted, but the success seems unpredictable so far. In studying the associations with helper bacteria and the present microflora influencing the biogeochemical processes in the ectomycorrhizosphere we want to identify helpful accessory microbes with respect to fitness in times of climate changes and determine their role in fruiting body development in association with mushroom growers from Thuringia.

Working group & planned collaborations

At FSU, the Institute of Microbiology's chair on Microbial Communication investigates ectomycorrhiza for some 20 years. There, the basidiomycete Tricholoma vaccinum has been in the focus of research. In adopting the molecular techniques and microbiome analyses to the ascomycetous Tuber species, we want to use the knowledge to identify helpful association for truffle cultivation. A collaboration with "Goldpilze" and the Erfurt Research Centre for Horticultural Crops (FGK), we have partners strong in basic and applied sciences.


Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated and highly-qualified students from all countries. Prerequisites for this PhD project are:
  • A Master’s degree in Microbiology, Biology or Biogeosciences or other disciplines related to environmental sciences
  • Lab skills:
    • Microscopic techniques (fluorescence LSM, high resolution microscopy),
    • Microbiology methods
    • Molecular techniques (RNA/DNA extraction, (q)PCR, Microbiome analyses, …)
  • Of advantage is experience in different mass spectrometry techniques
  • Computational skills:
    • Bioinformatics,
    • Processing and analyzing large data sets,
    • Statistics
  • Very good oral and written communication skills in English, knowledge of German is an asset
The Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. The Max Planck Society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

Root cross sections with ectomycorrhiza as transmitted light and fluorescence image, © E. Kothe
Root cross sections with ectomycorrhiza as transmitted light and fluorescence image, © E. Kothe

>> more information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application