Employees – University of Copenhagen

Niels Agerbirk

Niels Agerbirk

Associate Professor

Plant Biochemistry

I teach biochemistry, natural product chemistry and general first year chemistry. My research is on natural product analysis, structure elucidation and functional characterization of enzymes, focusing on plant secondary metabolites and related enzymes. These compounds probably evolved as defences against insects and disease, but also affect nutrition.  We focus on crop plants such as mustard and cabbage, and their wild relatives, in particular the plant wintercress. The aim is not solving particular practical problems. Rather, we describe and investigate entirely new molecules and reactions, that might provide new ideas for plant breeding.

Chemical Ecology

Around half of the research is "pure" plant biochemistry, looking at the intact plant as an isolated system. But it turns out that plant biochemistry is only fully unfolded in interaction with diseases and pests, so another half of the research has focus on this interplay. This area of biochemistry is known as "chemical ecology" or "ecological biochemistry" because we investigate the part of biochemistry that has to do with the ecology of the plants. We focus on important pests in agriculture, such as the diamondback moth and cabbage butterflies. 

Current research interests:

Plant secondary metabolism. Biochemical investigations of the glucosinolate-myrosinase system and non-glucosinolate defences in crucifers. The current focus is on glucosinolate diversity and evolution and glucosinolates as intermediates in biosynthesis of non-glucosinolate defences.

An extended description can be found here.

Insect-plant biochemical interactions. Chemical basis of resistance and susceptibility to insects and disease. The current focus is on discovery of new defence molecules.

In all cases, investigations range from elucidation of molecular structures and biochemical pathways to ecological and evolutionary investigations.

(dk version)

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