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Department of Biology

Plant-Microbe Interactions

Welcome to the website of the Plant-Microbe Interactions (PMI) group of the Institute of Environmental Biology. Our research is focused on interactions between plants, microbes and insect herbivores. Plants live in complex environments in which they intimately interact with a broad range of pathogenic and beneficial micro-organisms. World-wide, pathogenic microbes and insect herbivores cause major crop losses. However, plants are not helpless, as - like animals - they possess a sophisticated innate immune system that protects them against the majority of their attackers. Moreover, plants recruit beneficial microbes to their root microbiome that promote plant growth and stimulate the plant immune system. The research of the PMI group aims to explore the plant's natural immune system and to investigate how beneficial microbes in the rhizosphere microbiome stimulate plant growth and health. By investigating molecular and ecological aspects of plant innate immunity and rhizosphere biology, the PMI group aims to gain knowledge on how plants are able to cope with often hostile changes in their environment, and to utilize this knowledge for the development of novel strategies for (biological) crop protection. The research goals are being achieved by using the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana and several crop species in combination with state-of-the-art techniques and methods in phytopathology, microbiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, genomics and bioinformatics. Click here to view our video.

Fascination of Plants Day 2013

Plant-Microbe Interactions Utrecht 2014
PMI 2012

Phytopathology (Corné Pieterse, Peter Bakker, Saskia van Wees)

Botrytis cinerea on ArabidopsisThe research programme of the Phytopathology group is focussing on interactions between pathogenic and non-pathogenic micro-organisms and plants. The following topics are central in our research:
- Induced systemic resistance (ISR)
- Priming for enhanced defense
- Modulation of host immunity by beneficial microbes
- Hormonal crosstalk between pathogen and insect resistance signaling pathways
- Biological control

Plant-Microbe Genetics (Guido Van den Ackerveken)

Downy mildew on ArabidopsisThe molecular processes at the interface of host and pathogen determine if a plant is resistant or susceptible. Our group aims to identify the molecular players in this process and to understand their function. 

Mycorrhiza Ecology (Marcel van der Heijden)

Mycorrhizal rootThe 450 million year old symbiosis between the majority of land plants and mycorrhizal fungi is one of the most ancient, abundant and ecologically important plant-microbe mutualism on Earth. We investigate the impact of these important plant symbionts on plant growth and ecosystem functioning.