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




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


Echo to our Superfood Research

A talk by Prof. Dr. Peter Nick on the 20th anniversary of the Federal Institution for Risk Assessment in Berlin receiveed considerable resonance, the German Press Agency (dpa) and the major print media such as ZEIT, Spiegel online, or Focus reported. Due to globalisation more and more novel plant foods enter the European market, hyped as "superfoods". An ageing and progressively health-concerned population sees nutrition as part of healthcare. The border between food and medication dissolves. This is nothing new, actually. Many traditional systems of medicine, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurveda describe this already since thousands of years. The production of such plants often cannot keep pace with the short-lived nutrition trends, leading to skyrocketting prices and supply problems. These are ideal conditions for intentional fake and non-intentional confusion. Our research tries to address this - our collection of authenticated reference plants in the Botanical Garden of the KIT and novel assays based on genetic barcoding help to uncover such fake and to contribute to more consumer protection. The talk had, therefore, the main goal to raise the awareness of the authorities for this problem. For this reason, the press echo has been important. more...

German Rice Research Network

Rice is the most important staple crop on our planet. The consequences of climate change, such as drought, floods, soil salinity and new diseases progressively affect rice production. Moreover, the practice of paddy fields is problematic, because this releases methane, a climate gas that is even more negative than carbon dioxide. Since many years, the department Molecular Cell Biology works therefore on the stress resilience of rice. Mostly unnoticed by the scientific public, meanwhile a whole range of labs in Germany has joined rice research. Thus, time has come to bundle this expertise, as to develop new strategy to render rice cultivation more climate resilient. Dr. Michael Riemann from our department has therefore connected several of the rice research groups into the German Rice Research Network. Also, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on the Philippines, the leading institution for Research and Development, is in the boat. September 28, the group meets for its autumn assembly - the goal is to launch a joint project as to contribute to more food security.








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 next semester will be: "Darwin's Legacy". more...





What is New? Plant Thermometre found

Climate change is more than hot and dry summers, it is also a blurred border between season. A warm March, followed by a frosty April mean often huge losses in orchards and vineyards. How can plants sense cold and respond rapidly? We have now found a very exotic thermometre - a motor protein that in the warm walks along microtubules, but, when microtubules decay in the cold, moves into the nucleus and works as gene switch activating genes that lead to cold hardening. Can we use this thermometre to make plants defend themselves more rapidly against frost?

Publication Xu et al. (2022)

In addition to this motor protein, also the gen switch Cold Box Factor 4 is imported to the nucleus in response to cold, as we could show for grapevine. This work will appear soon in the International Journal of Molecular Science.

What is New? Sugar Beats Salt - Yes, Sorghum Can

Sorghum originates from East Africa and is, therefore, adapted to harsh conditions. Since a couple of years, we try to develop the potential of this rapidly growing plant for bioeconomy. Since it is very resilient, one can grow it even there, where no food is produced - the conflict bioeconomy versus nutrition can be circumvented. Rising sea levels make more and more areas prone to salinity. During her PhD, Eman Abuslima investigated, why some Sorghum genotypes can cope with this. The result of the quite comprehensive study is surprising - the roots are good in alarming the leaves swiftly about the arrival of salt. This allows the leaves to safeguard photosynthesis by multiple adjustments of their metabolism. They accumulate more sugar than usual and send the sugar to the root. This suport allows the root to sequester salt ions by the help of special pumps into the vacuoles of the growth zone. The work has now been accepted in Frontiers of Plant Science and is the base for the breeding of more resilient varieties in a targeted manner.




What is News? Superfood of the Inca at Stake

The True Peruvian Amaranth (A. caudatus), also known as Kiwicha, has not been as intensively subject to breeding as compared to its Mexican sisters that also dominate international trading. However, kiwicha provides several nutritional advantages, such as a higher activity of antioxidants, a higher content of unsaturated fatty acids, and a higher content of the amino acid lysine, which is often underrepresented in plant proteins. To safeguard and develop these valuable traits, it is crucial to preserve the authenticity of seed material. Unfortunately, many Amaranth growers, in Peru and elsewhere, are not aware of the differences between Amaranth species. As a result, growers often use imported seeds. This undermines the authenticity of kiwicha. Using our Amaranth collection in the Botanical Garden of the KIT, we have developed in frame of our project AMOR (in cooperation with the University of Hohenheim and partners in Peru)  a PCR-based gene test to detect rapidly and reliably faked kiwicha. A field study in Peru shows that this test is urgently needed. Our work has now appeared in the European Journal of Food Research and Technology. more...



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)