Student Projects

How do plants send signals from shoot to root?

themes kasper

When plants are growing close together they compete for space and light. One of the effects of this competition is a reduction in root growth. This is an important agronomic effect and is the reason why, for example, you can’t place root producing vegetables like carrots too close together in your garden. We can mimic plant-plant competition by giving extra far-red light only to the plant shoots. Even though the roots do not receive this far-red light, they are still affected and their growth is reduced. We want to find out how this far-red induced signal is transduced to the root and how it acts there.
Techniques involved are for example: qPCR, in vitro plant culture, (confocal) microscopy, GUS staining and western blot.
Information: Kasper van Gelderen. ( 

Responses of different rice weeds to flooding stress: different tolerant mechanisms?

Toulotte rice experiment

Now that floods happen more and more frequently around the world and cause serious impacts to the agriculture sector, studying flooding tolerance responses of plants is an important field of research. In the frame of my PhD thesis, I am aiming to decipher the mechanisms underlying the tolerance of different rice weeds to flood stress. First, we need to determine the physiological responses of several biotypes of 4 different weed species in different conditions of submergence. Those species and biotypes were selected based on their importance for the rice production and on previous experiments I have been doing in The Philippines. The physiological responses will be used to select the best candidates to then perform transcriptomic and molecular analysis, in order to decipher their flood tolerance mechanisms. This internship would be a great opportunity to acquire theoretical and practical knowledge on these topics (plant physiology, plant molecular biology, flooding stresses, weed science, etc.).
Information: Justine Toulotte (

Early ethylene accumulation prevents flooded plants from drowning

themes sjon

Like us humans, plants require oxygen to survive, and most terrestrial species will eventually die if they spend too much time under water. We recently demonstrated that plants use the hormone ethylene as a signal to adapt to low-oxygen (hypoxic) conditions. What is the mechanism behind this ethylene-induced hypoxia tolerance? Does variation in this mechanism explain why some plants are more tolerant to floods than others? And could this knowledge help us to make our crops more tolerant to floods?
Information: Sjon Hartman (

Connecting gibberellin metabolism with resource availability

day-night tree

Photosynthesis is essential for plant growth. However, hormones are also known to control plant development and growth. Hormone signalling networks are being uncovered in great detail. Likewise, much progress has been made on photosynthesis and sugar signalling. However, for optimal resource utilization, the plant needs to integrate these signalling networks. For the important growth hormone gibberellin we identified three biosynthetic genes that act as link between sugar and hormone signalling. In this project we wish to uncover the network of players that control the activation of these three candidate genes.
Information: Hans van Veen (

A sacrifice for the greater good: coordinating resources to survive flooding

submergence and recovery

Submergence of the plant has dramatic consequences. Gas exchange with the environment is impaired leading to a shortage of oxygen and limited respiration. This often combined with extremely low light conditions and thus no photosynthesis. The performance of leaves that have been submerged is poor, and for efficient recovery the plant produces new leaves from the shoot apical meristem. Even when a plant seems completely dead, regrowth from the meristem frequently remains possible. This project will investigate several hypothesises and fundamental questions on how plants ensure high tolerance of the meristem. Are meristems intrinsically tolerant or are leaves sacrificed to fuel the meristem? Old leaves die faster than young leaves, what is regulating this differential rate of senescence? Fuelling the meristem requires production (gluconeogenesis) rather than consumption (glycolysis and fermentation) of sugars, how can the plant control these fluxes?
Information: Hans van Veen (