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Dr Patrick Schäfer



Associate Professor


Life Sciences
University of Warwick
Tel: 024 7657 5244

Research Interests

One of the most demanding global challenges is how to feed a steadily increasing world population. Our current ability to provide food for a global population of 7 billion people will soon be inadequate. Among the main reasons for food shortages are: an imperfect distribution of food; the shortcomings of resources such as energy, water, fertilizers; as well as the lack of crop varieties adapted to changing environmental conditions and the continuous loss of arable land. The occurrence of famines, malnutrition, and rural exodus in developing countries will further increase in the future as we approach a global population of 9 billion people by 2050. We therefore urgently need to develop sustainable strategies that guarantee an adequate global food supply

Plants provide a high nutritional value as human food and animal forage with low carbon emissions, water use and energy costs that can be utilized as a sustainable solution to the food shortage. Roots, "the hidden half" of plants, play an important role in nutrient uptake, above ground plant growth and plant health, whose potential for crop productivity is not fully utilised. In fact, soil induced salt and drought stress together with root diseases are the causes of the most devastating and mostly uncontrollable losses of crop production.

Plants profit significantly from their interactions with beneficial root microbes. In my group, we study mutualistic symbioses of plants and crops with sebacinalean fungi to identify stress adaptive pathways activated by these mutualistic fungi in plants. By using state-of-the-art molecular, systems and synthetic biological techniques we aim at understanding the regulatory networks activated by mutualistic fungi and how we can exploit them to enhance root stress resistance. Therefore our research is focused on:

  • Stress-adaptive regulatory networks reprogrammed by mutualists in planta
  • Effector phenomics as resource to engineer root stress resistance
  • Cell type-specificity in the organisation and regulation of stress signalling in roots
  • The antagonism between plant growth and stress resistance


Associate Professor, School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, since 2012
Habilitation: Cell biology, Phytopathology, 2011
Research group leader, Justus Liebig University Giessen, 2006 - 2012
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Washington State University, 2004 - 2005
PhD, Justus Liebig University Giessen, 2003

Projects prior to joining University of Warwick:

Barley compatibility factors pivotal for root colonisation and manipulation of basal defence by Piriformospora indica, Funded by DFG (Germany), Project Start Date 2009 - Project End Date 2012

The functional principle of fungal effectors and plant proteins essentially supporting cthe mutualistic Arabidopsis-Piriformospora indica symbiosis, Funded by DFG (Germany), Project Start Date 2009 - Project End Date 2011

Investigation on the colonisation of Arabidopsis thaliana by the mutualistic fungal symbiont Piriformospora indica, Funded by DFG (Germany), Project Start Date 2007 - Project End Date 2009

Fortification of plants by the mutualistic root endophyte Piriformospora indica against biotic and abiotic stresses with Dierk Scheel, Lars Voll, Uwe Sonnewald, Frank Waller, Karl-Heinz Kogel, Funded by Bundersministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Germany), Project Start Date 2007 - Project End Date 2010

Research Projects

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