The Arabidopsis Functional Genomics Network


AFGN Final Report 2012

8th Tri-National Arabidopsis Meeting
8th Tri-National Arabidopsis Meeting

September 12-15, 2012

University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Conference website:

The Arabidopsis Functional Genomics Network (AFGN)

Research on Arabidopsis thaliana has a long history in Germany, and many individual research groups have used this important reference plant for analysing different aspects of plant biology. Two independent programs support research on plant functional genomics in Germany, namely the Arabidopsis Functional Genomics Network (AFGN), supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the more crop, and therefore application oriented plant genomics research program, GABI, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Both programs work together in close cooperation, with intensive links at both the scientific and the contributor level.
The DFG-supported AFGN was founded by a bottom-up approach of the German Arabidopsis research community in 2001 as a basic research program. AFGN currently funds 25 projects in Germany and has, almost from the start, been organized in close coordination with the 2010 Project of the United States National Science Foundation (NSF). Together with many other research programs throughout the world, these programs aim to elucidate the function of all Arabidopsis genes by the year 2010. A coordinated and unique reviewing process of the jointly submitted proposals from US and German research groups was organized for the first time for the projects currently running between the 2010 Project and the AFGN. This coordinated review process will be intensified in the next funding period of AFGN which starts in fall 2007.

AFGN Current Research Projects

The main activities of the ongoing AFGN research projects concentrate on the analyses of members of selected multiprotein families and cover the elucidation of their structure, activity, interaction partners, gene expression, intracellular localisation, post-translational regulation and function. From the methodical point of view, the AFGN members utilize many techniques and methods of the functional genomics approach.
In 2003, AFGN initiated the largest international Arabidopsis transcriptome project entitled AtGenExpress ( It consists of 497 data sets almost all of which cover duplicate or triplicate experiments. The AFGN part of the project includes 310 data sets for Arabidopsis development and responses to the biotic and abiotic environment (photomorphogenic light, different stresses, pathogens) and for several natural accessions. Further major contributions to AtGenExpress were provided by colleagues from RIKEN (mainly hormone and inhibitor responses), from the 2010 Project (responses to pathogens) and from ETH Zürich (cell cycle). The overall database, which is open to the scientific public, provides the experimental base for many open access bioinformatics tools such as Genevestigator and MapMan.

AFGN Programs and Funding

In collaboration with the 2010 Project, AFGN founded the Young Researcher Exchange Program ( program financially supports short term research visits (up to three months) of young German scientists in cooperating US laboratories and vice versa.

Together with colleagues from Austria and Switzerland, AFGN initiated an international conference on Arabidopsis functional genomics which is recognized and attended by many European and US scientists and held in Tübingen in 2006 ( and in Vienna in 2007.
The second funding period of the AFGN will end in the fall of 2007. However, the DFG has announced its intention of continuing to support German Arabidopsis functional genomics research and German/US bilateral scientific cooperation in the framework of AFGN. Discussions about the structure and the main goals of AFGN are completed and the announcement for the coming funding period (2007 to 2010) is now available (Announcement of the AFGN Program (Funding Period 2007 2010)).
The AFGN program will continue to support basic functional genomics research in Arabidopsis, thereby contributing to the accelerated acquisition and utilization of new knowledge and innovative approaches to elucidate fundamental biological processes in higher plants. Future support will concentrate on two areas of research:
Functional Genomics of Biological Processes
Research in the AFGN has shown that different members of a given Arabidopsis multiprotein family may be multifunctional and, thus, may play a role in different biological processes and pathways. As a consequence, the focus of AFGN will move from a sole multiprotein family-based genomic approach towards the genomic analysis of multigene networks whose members functionally interact with each other in accomplishing a given biological process.
Tools and Resources for Plant Functional Genomic Research
There is still demand for the development of novel and genome-wide tools and technologies and additional resources in plant functional genomics to address unmet needs. It is expected that these methods and tools will complement the already existing tools and research resources, will provide quantitative readouts, will be cost effective and comprehensive, and, thus, will be readily adopted by the scientific community.

AFGN Program Coordinator:
Prof. Dr. Klaus Harter
ZMBP / Plant Physiology
University of Tübingen
Auf der Morgenstelle 1
Tübingen, Germany
Phone: +49-(0)7071-29-72605
FAX: +49-(0)7071-29-3287