December 15, 1961|
Dannenberg (Elbe), Germany
|Nationality||German and US|
Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology|
|Alma mater||Bielefeld University, University of Cologne|
|Doctoral advisor||Herbert Jäckle|
|Notable awards||Charles Albert Shull Award, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, Otto Bayer Award, Mendel Medal|
Weigel was an undergraduate in biology and chemistry at the universities of Bielefeld and Cologne. In 1986, he graduated with a Diploma in biology for this thesis on Drosophila neurogenesis with the late José Campos-Ortega. In 1988, he moved to the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen. During his PhD work with Herbert Jäckle, he discovered the founding member of an important class of transcription factors, the Forkhead/FOX proteins. In 1988, he graduated with a PhD (summa cum laude) from the Eberhard-Karls-Universität.
Career and research
Weigel began to work with plants during his postdoctoral research with Elliot M. Meyerowitz at Caltech, where he cloned the floral regulator LEAFY from Arabidopsis thaliana. From 1993 to 2002, he was an Assistant and then Associate Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla. In 2002, he accepted an appointment as Scientific Member and Director at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, where he founded the Department for Molecular Biology. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute and the University of Tübingen. In 2012, Weigel co-founded the plant bioinformatics startup company Computomics in Tübingen.
During the 1990s, Weigel mostly studied the development of individual flowers and how the onset of flowering is regulated. His group made important discoveries in both areas. Together with Ove Nilsson, he demonstrated that transfer of the LEAFY gene from Arabidopsis thaliana to aspen trees was sufficient to reduce the time to flowering from years to months. Weigel and his team isolated the FT gene, which was later found to be an important component of the mobile signal inducing flowering. New genetic tools developed by his group led to the discovery of the first microRNA mutant in plants.
Through his study of factors that control the onset of flowering, a quintessential adaptive trait, Weigel became interested in more general questions of evolution. Apart from work on genetic variation in environment-dependent developmental processes, his group is known for the generation of extensive genomic resources, such as the first haplotype map for a non-mammalian species. To further exploit and advance the understanding of genetic variation, Weigel and colleagues initiated the 1001 Genomes project for Arabidopsis thaliana. Related to this is a new area of interest, in genetic barriers. In collaboration with Jeffery Dangl, his group discovered that such barriers in plants are often associated with autoimmunity. They could show that in certain hybrid offspring, specific gene products contributed by one of the parents may be inappropriately recognized as foreign and pathogenic, and thus trigger pervasive cell death throughout the plant. Most of the causal genes encode components of the immune system, indicating that there are constraints on the assembly of an optimal immune system.
Honors and awards
- 1989 Dieter Rampacher Award of the Max Planck Society
- 1994 Young Investigator Award of the National Science Foundation
- 2001 Charles Albert Shull Award of the American Society of Plant Biologists
- 2003 Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)
- 2007 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
- 2008 Member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
- 2009 Member of the US National Academy of Sciences
- 2010 Otto Bayer Award of the Bayer Foundations
- 2010 Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London
- 2011 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
- 2011 State Research Prize of Baden-Württemberg
- 2015 Mendel Medal of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
- 2016 Genetics Society of America Medal
- Weigel D, Jürgens G, Küttner F, Seifert E, Jäckle H (1989). "The homeotic gene fork head encodes a nuclear protein and is expressed in the terminal regions of the Drosophila embryo". Cell. 57 (4): 645–658. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(89)90133-5. PMID 2566386.
- Weigel D, Jäckle H (1990). "The fork head domain, a novel DNA-binding motif of eucaryotic transcription factors?". Cell. 63 (3): 455–456. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(90)90439-L. PMID 2225060.
- Weigel D, Alvarez J, Smyth DR, Yanofsky MF, Meyerowitz EM (1992). "LEAFY controls floral meristem identity in Arabidopsis". Cell. 69 (5): 843–859. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(92)90295-N. PMID 1350515.
- Weigel D, Nilsson O (1995). "A developmental switch sufficient for flower initiation in diverse plants". Nature. 377 (6549): 495–500. doi:10.1038/377495a0. PMID 7566146.
- Kardailsky I, Shukla VK, Ahn JH, Dagenais N, Christensen SK, Nguyen JT, Chory J, Harrison MJ, Weigel D (1999). "Activation tagging of the floral inducer FT". Science. 286 (5446): 1962–1965. doi:10.1126/science.286.5446.1962. PMID 10583961.
- Wigge PA, Kim MC, Jaeger KE, Busch W, Schmid M, Lohmann JU, Weigel D (2005). "Integration of spatial and temporal information during floral induction in Arabidopsis". Science. 309 (5737): 1056–1059. doi:10.1126/science.1114358. PMID 16099980.
- Palatnik JF, Allen E, Wu X, Schommer C, Schwab R, Carrington JC, Weigel D (2003). "Control of leaf morphogenesis by microRNAs". Nature. 425 (6955): 257–263. doi:10.1038/nature01958. PMID 12931144.
- Clark RM, Schweikert G, Toomajian C, Ossowski S, Zeller G, Shinn P, Warthmann N, Hu TT, Fu G, Hinds DA, Chen H, Frazer KA, Huson DH, Schölkopf B, Nordborg M, Rätsch G, Ecker JR, Weigel D (2007). "Common sequence polymorphisms shaping genetic diversity in Arabidopsis thaliana". Science. 317 (5836): 338–342. doi:10.1126/science.1138632. PMID 17641193.
- Kim S, Plagnol V, Hu TT, Toomajian C, Clark RM, Ossowski S, Ecker JR, Weigel D, Nordborg M (2007). "Recombination and linkage disequilibrium in Arabidopsis thaliana". Nat. Genet. 39 (9): 1151–1155. doi:10.1038/ng2115. PMID 17676040.
- Bomblies K, Lempe J, Epple P, Warthmann N, Lanz C, Dangl JL, Weigel D (2007). "Autoimmune response as a mechanism for a Dobzhansky-Muller-type incompatibility syndrome in plants". PLoS Biol. 5 (9): e23. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050236. PMC 1964774. PMID 17803357.
- Chae E, Bomblies K, Kim ST, Karelina D, Zaidem M, Ossowski S, Martín-Pizarro C, Laitinen RA, Rowan BA, Tenenboim H, Lechner S, Demar M, Habring-Müller A, Lanz C, Rätsch G, Weigel D (2014). "Species-wide genetic incompatibility analysis identifies immune genes as hot spots of deleterious epistasis". Cell. 159 (6): 1341–1351. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2014.10.049. PMC 4269942. PMID 25467443.