Plants live in complex environments in which they intimately interact with a broad range of insects and 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 Plant-Microbe Interactions group (PMI) aims to explore and exploit the plant's natural immune system. We aim to understand how plant pathogens are able to infect plants and how resistant plants are able to defend themselves. We also investigate how beneficial microbes in the rhizosphere microbiome play a role in boosting the plant immune system and thereby stimulate plant health and growth. By investigating molecular and ecological aspects of plant innate immunity, infection, 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.
Themes of the PMI group
- Beneficial root microbiota and induced systemic resistance (ISR) - Corné Pieterse
- Hormone crosstalk in plant immunity - Saskia Van Wees
- Microbial (meta)genomics and rhizosphere competence of plant-associated microbes - Ronnie de Jonge
- Pathogen-induced recruitment of beneficial microbiomes - Roeland Berendsen
- Mycorrhizal ecology - Marcel van der Heijden