My main scientific interest is to understand the fundamental processes that determine the outcome of plant infections by pathogenic bacteria while facing both plant immunity and the commensal microbiota. Plants employ an elaborate immune system to defend themselves against pathogens. Adapted pathogens evolved to invade host tissue via particular infection routes and overcome plant immunity. Bacterial Xanthomonas pathogens are a major threat to a variety of crop plants; for example, Xanthomonas campestris isolates cause black rot disease on cabbage and other Brassicaceae plants.
Our research group studies the pathogenicity strategies of Xanthomonas and the corresponding plant immune response. How Xanthomonas gains access to the plant vasculature during systemic infections and how tissue-specific immune recognition allows the plant to ward off such highly adapted pathogens are open questions that we address by applying genetic, biochemical and cell biological approaches.
In nature, plants are inhabited by microbial communities collectively called microbiota, which fulfil important functions for the host, such as disease protection. However, it is still unclear whether commensal microbes occupying similar niches as pathogens and can prevent disease due to direct inhibition of the pathogen or by priming of localized plant immune responses.
Understanding the molecular interaction between plants, their commensal microbiota and pathogens will contribute to the development of new (biological) crop protection solutions for agriculture.
The research on pathogenesis of Xanthomonas campestris was initiated by Harrold van den Burg from 2011 to 2022, who is now a Professor by special appointment for Phytopathology at the University of Amsterdam and Vice president Innovation for Crops at Keygene.
Current team members
Floris Stevens (PhD student)
Nanne Taks (PhD student)
Misha Paauw (PhD student)
Hayat Sehki (Postdoc)
Past team members
Manon Richard (Postdoc)
I studied Molecular Biotechnology at the Technical University of Munich (Germany) from 2006 to 2012 during which I developed my interest in plant biology and microbiology. In addition, I enrolled in a MSc program on Philosophy of Science and Technology from 2011 to 2013 following my curiosity regarding the philosophical basis of scientific knowledge and understanding of science in society.
During my PhD research on plant-microbe interactions at The Sainsbury Laboratory and at the John Innes Centre (Norwich, UK) from 2013 to 2017, I studied how pathogenic and commensal bacteria elicit and evade the plant immune system. In my postdoctoral research at ETH Zurich (Switzerland), which was supported by an ETH Postdoc Fellowship and a Career Seed Award, I investigated the interplay between plant immunity, the microbiota, and opportunistic pathogens in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. My scientific interest allowed me to work at great research institutes and to meet other curiosity-driven people. I strive to convey my fascination for molecular plant science to the next generation of scientists and apply new research technology to address outstanding questions of how plants interact with microbes. In 2023, I joined the Molecular Plant Pathology group at the University of Amsterdam as Assistant Professor.