Alain Goossens Lab

Research focus

Across the plant kingdom, the jasmonate hormone steers the delicate balance between growth and the activation of defence programs, such as the production of bioactive specialized metabolites. By using cutting-edge functional genomics tools, in combination with reverse genetics screenings, we aim to identify the essential components acting in the jasmonate signalling network and to characterize the molecular mechanisms driving plant natural product biosynthesis, in medicinal and model plants.

Plant cells are capable of producing an overwhelming variety of (specialized) metabolites, both in terms of complexity and quantity. These small organic molecules allow plants to cope with various types of stresses but often also have biological activities of high interest to human. Yet, this impressive metabolic machinery is still scarcely exploited, mainly because of the incomplete molecular insight into plant specialized metabolism.
A functional genomics based technology platform has been created that enables comprehensive investigations and large-scale gene discovery programs in jasmonate signalling and plant metabolism. The platform is built on the integration of transcriptome, interactome and metabolome profiling, which drives the design of subsequent reverse genetics screenings in plants or microorganisms. In particular, we exploit the fact that jasmonates can be employed universally across the plant kingdom to modulate both the biosynthesis of the metabolites itself, as well as the formation of the specialized producer cells or storage organs. By profiling jasmonate elicited tissues of amongst others the model plants Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago truncatula, the crop tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and medicinal plants such as Catharanthus roseus, Artemisia annua, or Taxus baccata, we have built an extensive collection of thousands of genes potentially involved in all aspects of plant metabolism. Presently we are building platforms for medium-throughput functional analysis of genes encoding transcription factors, E3 ubiquitin ligases and triterpene enzymes.

Our gene collections and functional data will increase our fundamental understanding of the central mechanisms that steer jasmonate signalling in the context of plant growth and metabolism. Simultaneously, they will serve as a novel resource for (metabolic) engineering tools that will facilitate 1) the creation of a synthetic biology program for the sustainable production of existing or novel plant-derived molecules with superior bioactivities for the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical or agrochemical industries and 2) increased crop productivity by improvement of plant growth and defence.


The transcriptional repressor complex FRS7-FRS12 regulates flowering time and growth in ArabidopsisRitter A, Inigo S, Fernández-Calvo P, Heyndrickx K, Dhondt S, Shi H, De Milde L, Vanden Bossche R, De Clercq R, Eeckhout D, Ron M, Somers D, Inzé D, Gevaert K, De Jaeger G, Vandepoele K, Pauwels L, Goossens ANature Communications, 8, 15235, 2017
GAME9 regulates the biosynthesis of steroidal alkaloids and upstream isoprenoids in the plant mevalonate pathwayCárdenas P, Sonawane P, Pollier J, Vanden Bossche R, Dewangan V, Weithorn E, Tal L, Meir S, Rogachev I, Malitsky S, Giri A, Goossens A, Burdman S, Aharoni ANature Communications, 7, 10654, 2016
The bHLH transcription factor BIS1 controls the iridoid branch of the monoterpenoid indole alkaloid pathway in Catharanthus roseusVan Moerkercke A, Steensma P, Schweizer F, Pollier J, Gariboldi I, Payne R, Vanden Bossche R, Miettinen K, Espoz J, Purnama P, Kellner F, Seppänen-Laakso T, O'Connor S, Rischer H, Memelink J, Goossens APROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 112, 8130-5, 2015
Combinatorial biosynthesis of sapogenins and saponins in Saccharomyces cerevisiae using a C-16alpha hydroxylase from Bupleurum falcatumMoses T, Pollier J, Almagro L, Buyst D, Van Montagu M, Pedreño M, Martins J, Thevelein J, Goossens APROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 111, 1634-9, 2014
The protein quality control system manages plant defence compound synthesisPollier J* Moses T* González Guzmán M De Geyter N Lippens S Vanden Bossche R Marhavy P Kremer A Morreel K Guerin C Tava A Oleszek W Thevelein J Campos N Goormachtig S Goossens ANATURE, 504, 148-52, 2013* These authors contributed equally

Job openings


Complementary partners VIB and ILVO join forces

15/01/2016 - On 15 January 2016, VIB and the Institute for Agriculture and Fisheries Research (ILVO) signed a strategic collaboration agreement.

Biosynthesis of sterol and plant defence compounds share conserved elements

24/03/2014 - Jacob Pollier and Alain Goossens discovered a new mechanism by which the plant hormone jasmonic acid regulates the production of triterpenoid saponins—plant defense molecules whose biosynthesis pathway shows similarities to sterol synthesis in mammals.

Biologists discover an on-off button on plants’ alarm system

01/04/2010 - ​Scientists connected to VIB and Ghent University have discovered how plants turn their defense mechanisms on and off.

Innovative technology for the production of new pharmaceuticals forms the basis of a new company SoluCel

20/03/2006 - Scientists developed a technology to increase the production of pharmaceuticals in plant cells. The technology forms the foundation for the new company SoluCel

Alain Goossens

Alain Goossens

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


​PhD: Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, 1998
Postdoc.: Inst. Biologia Molecular & Celular Plantas, Valencia, Spain, 1998-2000
VIB Group Leader since 2002

Contact Info

VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems BiologyUGent-VIB Research Building FSVMTechnologiepark 927 9052 GENTRoute description