TRANSLATIONAL PLANT & MICROBIAL BIOLOGY
The translation of fundamental scientific knowledge to applications for the benefit of society is one of the missions of Utrecht University. The research within the Institute of Environmental Biology (IEB) on plant & microbial biology has great potential for translation to applications in agriculture and biotechnology. This is particularly important for the grand societal challenges in the area of food security and sustainability. Currently, our knowledge on DMR genes, that are required for susceptibility to downy mildew, is being translated to breed a new generation of disease resistant crops. The future development of innovative approaches requires a strong basis in fundamental science. It is, therefore, essential that society secures the funding of curiosity-driven research that will become instrumental in solving future global problems.
Why are plants susceptible to infection and how do pathogens manipulate their host to cause plant disease? These questions are central in the research of the Van den Ackerveken lab. Our interest is foremost in fundamental science to understand the molecular processes that occur during infection of plants by pathogenic microorganisms. On the plant side, we study susceptibility genes that, when mutated, make plants more resistant to pathogen infection. From the viewpoint of pathogens, our research is focussed on identifying effector proteins, and aimed at understanding how the manipulate host cell processes to make plants more susceptible to infection. An equally important part of our research is aimed at application of our knowledge and results to make plants resistant to diseases. In our laboratory we study downy mildew diseases of the model plant Arabidopsis, but also of the crop plants lettuce and spinach. We collaborate extensively with the plant breeding industry to make the translation from fundamental knowledge to application in durable and environmentally-friendly agriculture.