Research focus: sugar receptors and plant growth control
Sjef Smeekens is Professor of Molecular Plant Physiology at Utrecht University. He has been studying the signaling function of sugars as crucial factors for plant growth, development and reproduction for more than ten years. In the absence of these sugar-derived signals, plant growth stops, even when the sugars themselves are abundant.
He is active in the Sugar signaling and growth control group, one of the research areas within Molecular Plant Physiology . The group investigates how sugar signals influence gene expression, metabolism and plant development. Sugars are not only essential for metabolism, but also as signaling molecules and comparable to the signaling function of hormones.
Within academic research much progress has been made in identifying the systems that link sugar signals to growth as determined by cell division and cell elongation (discussed in Smeekens 2010, Trends in Plant Sciences). Important here is that the development of plants and the sugar signals must work together to improve the structure and thus the yield of the plants.
In addition to his research activities, Sjef Smeekens publishes in international journals and serves on the boards of Stichting Plantenbiologie Utrecht and the Topconsortium for Knowledge and Innovation Agri&Food, among others. From 2014 to 2020 he was vice-dean of Research at the Faculty of Science.
Areas of interest: