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Information for Researchers No. 25 | 7 May 2019
Priority Programme “MAdLand – Molecular Adaptation to Land: Plant Evolution to Change” (SPP 2237)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “MAdLand – Molecular Adaptation to Land: Plant Evolution to Change” (SPP 2237). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

One of the most remarkable challenges mastered by plants was the water-to-land-transition (plant terrestrialisation) that occurred some 500 million years ago. This change in habitat inevitably required molecular adaptations to cope with an array of new stresses. Plant terrestrialisation also caused a dramatic change through the transformation of Earth’s atmosphere and soil cover, priming Earth for life as we know it.

The Phragmoplastophyta comprise three lineages of streptophyte (charophyte) algae as well as the land plants (Embryophyta). Evolving from the streptophyte lineage, the earliest land plants made use of fungal symbioses to gain access to inorganic nutrients, thought to have been instrumental for the habitat transition of plant life. Initially morphologically primitive plants evolved a complexity that allowed them to conquer ever more habitats.

Due to the drastic habitat change during the conquest of land, inference of molecular adaptations underlying the process of terrestrialisation promises a significant gain of knowledge. This is of special interest both in order to understand plant evolution and adaptation to environmental changes, and for the transfer of such knowledge to other disciplines. By a novel comparative and functional evolutionary approach, encompassing charophyte algae and non-seed plants as models, this Priority Programme will study the genetic mechanisms underpinning the dramatic environmental adaptation to conditions on land and the evolution of plant complexity. Research in the Priority Programme will unravel the genetic mechanisms underlying adaptive evolution of plant morphology, physiology, biochemistry, cell biology and biotic interactions, and it will identify the ancestry of processes from which the diversity of seed plants evolved.

Projects to be funded within this programme will address outstanding questions of early land plant terrestrialisation and evolution:

  • Which features enabling conquest of land evolved in charophyte freshwater algae?
  • What is the succession and nature of molecular adaptations in early land plant evolution?
  • How did embryogenesis and the alternation of generations evolve?
  • How did organismic interaction of plants with fungi and bacteria evolve?
  • What are the molecular evolutionary drivers of tolerance to abiotic and biotic stresses?

Please clearly indicate in your proposal to which of these research area(s) it will contribute. Ideally, more than one of the above-mentioned research directions are covered.

MAdLand will make use of a broad suite of biological methods and cross-discipline knowledge, ranging from phylogenetic, molecular, physiological, genetic and cell biological approaches to the study of organismic interaction and biodiversity. To maximise the potential for synergies and cross-referencing of data, the following model organisms will be employed in this Priority Programme:

  • One organism each from Charophyceae and Zygnematophyceae
  • Anthoceros agrestis (hornwort)
  • Marchantia polymorpha (liverwort)
  • Physcomitrella patens (moss)
  • Ceratopteris richardii and Azolla filiculoides (ferns)

A list of labs specialising on the different model organisms is available from the coordinator.

Studies utilising seed plants or non-streptophytic algae will not be funded.

For projects involving comparative analyses it is expected that more than one of these models will be employed by any particular project. In case of functional genomics studies, using a single organism is welcome for laboratory work, as long as a comparative approach is included. Interactions with other applicants to generate synergistic research effects have to be described, and letters of commitment confirming the availability of model organism(s) and other required expertise shall be provided with the proposal.

Principal investigators are expected to have a strong record in one of the topics outlined above, or with one of the model organisms. The highly demanding questions tackled within this Priority Programme encourage ambitious, collaborative projects of synergistic nature, bridging labs with expertise in different model organisms or methods. Researchers are invited to submit tandem/interdisciplinary projects with principal investigators from different but complementary disciplines.

A clearly outlined contribution to the goals and networking of MAdLand and to global initiatives and international collaboration is appreciated.

Potential applicants are kindly asked to send a short summary of the proposed research [applicant(s), preliminary title, plus a maximum of five lines of text] no later than 22 July 2019 by e-mail to the coordinator (see below).

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 10 September 2019. Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system. To enter a new project within the existing Priority Programme, go to Proposal Submission – New Project/Draft Proposal – Priority Programmes and select “SPP 2237 MAdLand” from the current list of calls.

In preparing your proposal, please review the programme guidelines (form 50.05, section B) and follow the proposal preparation instructions (form 54.01). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal. Please include a title page with your name, your institution, and the title of your project. In addition to submitting your proposal through elan, please send an electronic copy to the programme coordinator.

Applicants must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you have not yet registered, please note that you must do so by 27 August 2019 to submit a proposal under this call. You will normally receive confirmation of your registration by the next working day. Note that you will be asked to select the appropriate Priority Programme call during both the registration and the proposal submission process.

Depending on the number of applications, the review process might include a colloquium with the applicants that will then take place in Bonn end of 2019. The envisioned start of funding will be spring 2020.

Further Information

More information on the Priority Programme is available under:

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01 can be downloaded at:

For scientific enquiries please contact the Priority Programme coordinator:

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to:

Programme contact:

Administrative contact:


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