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Plant Hormone Biology

Group leader Prof. Harro Bouwmeester

Research within the ‘Plant Hormone Biology' group is focused on the role of plant hormones in the communication between plants and other organisms. We investigate the biosynthesis and roles of of signalling molecules, such as plant hormones, in the communication of plants with other, harmful and beneficial, organisms; how is the biosynthesis of these signalling molecules regulated? What determines their structural diversity and how did the other organisms evolve the ability to perceive them?


The primary research interest of the Plant Hormone Biology group is the role of plant hormones and other signalling molecules in the communication of plants with beneficial and harmful organisms. We study the interaction of plants with other organisms aboveground where we are primarily interested in the role of terpenoids in the communication of plants with beneficial organisms such as natural enemies and pollinators. And we study the communication of plants with other organisms in the rhizosphere. Here, 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.