The primary research interest of the Plant Hormone Biology group that was established within SILS in 2016 is the role of plant hormones and other signalling molecules in the communication of plants with beneficial and harmful organisms, particularly in the rhizosphere. For example we study the exudation by plants of strigolactones into the rhizosphere to signal host presence to the symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and the abuse of this signalling relation by parasitic plants that use the same molecules for host detection. The fact that the strigolactones also have an endogenous signalling function as new class of plant hormones, regulating root and shoot architecture makes this interaction even more intriguing. Important aspects of his work on communication are how these signalling molecules are biosynthesised and perceived, how their production is regulated, and what happens to the interaction if their production is altered. To be able to do such studies we use a broad range of expertises, ranging from analytical chemistry for detection of the signalling molecules, through molecular biology and biochemistry for the isolation of key genes using state-of-the-art approaches such as the combination of transcriptomics and metabolomics, to metabolic engineering to change signalling molecule production and basic biology to study the consequences of the altered signalling molecule production for the interaction.
Title(s), initial(s), first name, surname: Prof. dr. Harro J. Bouwmeester
Tel +31 6 20387674
Private address: Javakade 712, 1019 SH Amsterdam
University/College of Higher Education: Wageningen University, the Netherlands
Date: 1985 (cum laude)
Main subject: Plant Physiology
University/College of Higher Education: Wageningen University, Laboratory for Plant Physiology, the Netherlands
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. C.M. Karssen
Title of thesis: The effect of environmental conditions on the seasonal dormancy pattern and germination of weed seeds
1989-1994 Two post-doc positions at the Centre for Agrobiological Research, Wageningen, the Netherlands: Research on caraway seed production and essential oil formation (1.0 fte; fixed term)
1994-1996 Post-doc at the Research Institute for Agrobiology and Soil Fertility, Wageningen, the Netherlands (1.0 fte; fixed-term)
1995 6-month postdoc in the Institute of Biological Chemistry (R. Croteau/J. Gershenzon), Washington State University, Pullman (WA), USA (1.0 fte; fixed-term)
1997-2006 Research scientist (and from 1998 Senior research scientist) at the Research Institute for Agrobiology and Soil Fertility, currently Plant Research International (PRI), Wageningen, the Netherlands (1.0 fte; tenured).
2006 0.5 fte associate professor (UHD) at the Laboratory for Plant Physiology of Wageningen University (in combination with 0.5 fte Senior scientist at Plant Research International).
2007 0.5 fte professorship in The Physiology of Plant Communication
2008 full chair Laboratory of Plant Physiology, Wageningen University.
2016-present full chair Plant Hormone Biology group, Swammerdam Institue for Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam
The primary research interest of prof. Bouwmeester is the communication of plants with other plants and organisms in their environment, and particularly the role of signalling molecules. He studies this interaction aboveground where he is primarily interested in the role of volatile terpenoids in the communication of plants with insects and the natural enemies of these insects. And he studies communication of plants with other organisms in the rhizosphere, with the most exciting example being the exudation by plants of strigolactones into the rhizosphere to signal host presence to the symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and the abuse of this signalling relation by parasitic plants that use the same molecules for host detection. The fact that he and others have shown that the strigolactones also have an endogenous signalling function as new class of plant hormones, regulating root and shoot architecture makes this interaction even more intriguing. Important aspects of his work on communication are how these signalling molecules are biosynthesised and perceived, how their production is regulated, and what happens to the interaction if their production is altered. To be able to do such studies he has built up a group with broad expertise, ranging from analytical chemistry for detection of the signalling molecules, through molecular biology and biochemistry for the isolation of key-genes using state-of-the-art approaches such as the combination of transcriptomics and metabolomics, to metabolic engineering to change signalling molecule production and basic biology to study the consequences of the altered signalling molecule production for the interaction. He applies his group’s expertise in all these areas also to study the biosynthesis and metabolic engineering of pharmaceutical terpenoids in plants with the most appealing example being his work on engineering of the production of the anti-malarial sesquiterpene artemisinin. Because his work covers a broad range of disciplines he collaborates with many scientists around the world because he wants to strengthen his own research lines and vice versa because others need his expertise, which often results in strong synergy and top publications. All this has resulted in an internationally recognised research group and has resulted in many (>180) publications in international peer-reviewed journals and an international position and extensive network in the field of terpenoids, including the strigolactones. To his top achievements belong papers in Science (3x), Nature (2x), Nature Genetics, Nature Chemical Biology, Nature Communications, PNAS, Nature Biotechnology and reviews in Trends in Plant Science (2x), Annual Review of Plant Biology, Annual Review of Phytopathology, Current Opinion in Plant Biology and Current Opinion in Biotechnology. In addition to publishing in top scientific journals professor Bouwmeester also collaborates with scientists in developing countries, particularly in the African continent, to apply his knowledge on parasitic plants to the control of the tremendous agricultural problem that the parasitic Striga spp. (witchweeds) pose in African agriculture. At the end of 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Vici-grant of 1.2 M€ by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for his work on underground chemical communication of plants, in 2007 a professorship in The Physiology of Plant Communication, in 2011 the Netherlands Genomics Initiative (NGI) Distinguished Visiting Scientist Stipend for a sabbatical visit to Davis, USA and in 2015 an ERC Advanced Grant of 2.5 M€ for work on rhizosphere communication in plants. From June 2008 he was full chair of the Laboratory of Plant Physiology of Wageningen University and from October 2016 full chair of Plant Hormone Biology in the Swammerdam Institue for Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam.
Prof. Bouwmeester reviews for >20 Journals such as Science, Nature Biotechnology, Plant Physiology, The Plant Journal, Phytochemistry, Molecular Systems Biology, Planta, Plant Pathology, The Plant Cell, Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Weed Research, Israel Journal of Plant Sciences, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Phytopathology, Seed Science Research, Industrial Crops and Products.
He reviews for Granting agencies such as NSF, GIF, BARD, Israeli Ministry of Agriculture Fund, BBSRC, Agence National de la Recherche (ANR).
2015-2020 Rhizosphere communication in plants (ERC Advanced grant; 2.5 M€)
2015-2017 Marie Curie project Role of metabolism in pollination (EU H2020; 200 k€)
2014-2015 KAUST Saudi Arabia Strigolactone and ABA measurements (100 k€)
2013-2017 STW-project Improved biological control in Capsicum by exploration of genetic diversity (500 k€)
2013-2016 NWO-CNPq Post-doc project Sustainable bisabolol production from renewable resources (300 k€)
2012-2016 Company grant on strigolactones (650 k€)
2012-2016 Wageningen UR PhD project: Metabolic engineering of terpenoids (300 k€)
2013-2018 NWO equipment grant Headspace volatile trapping and analysis facility (650 k€)
2012-2016 BMGF PhD project Integrated Striga control in sorghum (co-PI; 450 k$)
2012-2016 NWO-NSFC PhD project Strigolactones and phosphate shortage in rice (300 k€)
TERPNET meeting, June 2015, Vancouver, Canada; 13th Meeting of the International Parasitic Plant Society, July 2015, Kunming, China; Isoprenoids meeting, September 2014, Prague, Czech Republic; Gordon Conference Plant volatiles, January 2014, Ventura, USA; Phytochemical Society of Northern America meeting, August 2013, Corvallis, USA; International Plant Growth Substance (IPGSA) meeting, June 2013, Shanghai, China; ACS meeting, March 2012, San Diego, USA; Biotrends meeting, November 2010, Dusseldorf, Germany; Annual Plant Biotech Denmark Meeting, March 2010, Kopenhagen, Denmark; Gordon Conference on Carotenoids, January 2010, Ventura, USA; Gates-funded meeting on Control of Striga, November 2009, Nairobi, Kenya; 8th Société Française de Biologie Végétale SFBV meeting, July 2009, Strasbourg, France; OECD meeting parasitic plants, September 2008, Ostuni, Italy; SCI Conference, March 2008, London, UK; Gordon Conference Plant Volatiles, October 2007, Les Diablerets, Switzerland; Arabidopsis meeting, June 2007, Beijing, China; Induced Plant Resistance meeting, May 2007, Doorn, the Netherlands; Striga control conference, November 2006, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Molecular Mycorrhiza meeting, October 2006, Monte Verita, Switzerland; MPMI meeting, March 2006, Merida, Mexico; Metabolic Engineering meeting, August 2005, Seoul, South-Korea.
Prof. Bouwmeester was organiser of the 1st International Congress on Strigolactones, March 2015, Wageningen, the Netherlands; he co-organised the COST workshop Data handling, interpretation and modelling in terpenoid and PNP biosynthesis, the Netherlands, February 2013; organised the International Terpnet meeting, May 2005, the Netherlands; was co-organiser of the Spring School Chemical Communication: from Gene to Ecosystem March 2005, the Netherlands; member of the scientific committee for the IPPS workshop on parasitic weeds in the International Weed Science Congress in June 2004 in South Africa; member of the scientific committee for the IPPS conferences on Parasitic plants, July 2008 in Turkey and July 2013 in the UK; organiser of the mini-symposium Parasitic plants and strigolactones, more than rhizosphere communication, October 2011, the Netherlands.
In 2005 prof. Bouwmeester received the prestigious Vici-grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for his work: Chemical communication between host plants and parasitic organisms: who is talking, who is listening (1.2 M€). In 2010 he received the Netherlands Genomics Initiative (NGI) Distinguished Visiting Scientist Stipend (41 k€) for a sabbatical visit to Davis, USA. In 2015 he received an ERC Advanced Grant for a project on Rhizosphere communication in Plants (2.5 M€).
Prof. Bouwmeester supervised/is supervising >20 postdocs, >45 PhD students and >50 BSc and MSc students. He is an enthousiastic and inspiring group leader.