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Our mission is to elucidate plant signal transduction pathways employed in biotic interactions, focussing on the role of plant metabolites.

We study signal transduction cascades that help plants cope with biotic partners: pest insects, pollinators and microbes. As plants are unable to walk away from challenges, a proper regulation of signalling cascades that ensure survival and reproduction of a plant is crucial.

Within our department, we mainly study signalling processes involved in plant-insect interactions. During flowering, for example, floral volatiles are produced to attract insect pollinators: what are the genetic programs behind these responses? Upon wounding, plant leaves produce volatiles, which can not only prime defence responses in neighbouring plants, but also repel herbivores and attract their predators: how can plants perceive these volatiles and how can we manipulate defence mechanisms to increase plant fitness? We use Arabidopsis, Petunia, Tobacco, Tomato and Potato as plant model systems, and thrips, whiteflies and caterpillars as insect model systems. With an omics toolbox we aim to identify metabolites, genes and proteins in plants and insects that are important for their interactions. Since many leaf and stem volatiles are generated in glandular hairs (trichomes) we study these mini-organs in great detail.

Much of our work has direct application to breeding more resilient plants. Therefore, several of our projects are in close collaborations with the Dutch plant breeding industry.

The Plant Physiology team consists of Michel Haring (chairholder), Robert Schuurink (Professor), Petra Bleeker (Assistant professor), Silke Allmann (Assistant professor) and Juliette Silven (Lab manager and Research technician)