Frank Van Breusegem Lab

Research focus

Suboptimal growth conditions caused by drought, temperature, salt and pathogen-related stress are leading to worldwide yield losses in cultivated crops. This problem has a large societal impact (food security) and will become even bigger in the future, as climatic changes will cause more temperature and drought stress, and, while simultaneously the demand for plants for food, feed and bioenergy will steadily increase. Therefore, stress-tolerant crops are in high demand and has incentivized Agbiotech industry in the past decade to significant investments in the search and development of appropriate strategies targeting stress adaptation and protection for the major food and feed crops.

Oxidative stress or the rise in reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels is associated with a multiple of cellular traumas in probably all living organisms. Increased cellular ROS levels can originate from increased production rates through diverse oxidases and peroxidases or from over-accelerated photosynthetic and respiratory electron transport chains. Like other organisms, plants are harnessed with a large and diversified battery of antioxidant mechanisms to detoxify diverse ROS. Genetic perturbations of individual genes of the antioxidant network have demonstrated their key roles in keeping cellular ROS levels under control and ROS have recently emerged as important regulators of plant stress responses. Perturbation in ROS production and/or scavenging are sensed by plant cells as a ‘warning’ message and genetic programs leading to stress acclimation or cell death are switched on. Knowledge on the regulatory events governing ROS signal transduction will reach out towards signaling events in abiotic stress conditions. Through a combined top-down and bottom-up genomics and proteomics approach we are dissecting the gene, protein networks governing ROS signal transduction in plants and pinpoint proteins and pathways that are potential candidates for innovative molecular breeding strategies to develop stress-tolerant crops. In a second line, we study the function of metacaspases and their inhibitors in Arabidopsis thaliana.  These cysteine proteases are in analogy with animal caspases primary regulating or executing plant programmed cell death, next to other developmental and stress-related processes.


The dual role of LESION SIMULATING DISEASE 1 as a condition-dependent scaffold protein and transcription regulatorCzarnocka W Van Der Kelen Katrien Willems Patrick Szechynska-Hebda M Shahnejat-Bushehri S Balazadeh S Rusaczonek A Mueller-Roeber B. Van Breusegem Frank Karpinski SPLANT CELL AND ENVIRONMENT, 40, 2644-2662, 2017
SHORT-ROOT Deficiency Alleviates the Cell Death Phenotype of the Arabidopsis catalase2 Mutant under Photorespiration-Promoting ConditionsWaszczak C* Kerchev P* Mühlenbock P Hoeberichts F Van Der Kelen K M'hamdi A Willems P Denecker J Kumpf R Noctor G Messens J Van Breusegem FPLANT CELL, 28, 1844-59, 2016* or °: authors contributed equally
The ROS Wheel: Refining ROS Transcriptional FootprintsWillems Patrick M'Hamdi Amna Stael Simon Storme Véronique Kerchev Pavel Noctor G. Gevaert Kris Van Breusegem FrankPLANT PHYSIOLOGY, 171, 1720-33, 2016
Redox Strategies for Crop ImprovementKerchev P* De Smet B* Waszczak C Messens J* Van Breusegem F*ANTIOXIDANTS & REDOX SIGNALING, 23, 1186-205, 2015* or °: authors contributed equally
Sulfenome mining in Arabidopsis thalianaWaszczak Cezary Akter Salma Eeckhout Dominique Persiau Geert Wahni Khadija Bodra Nandita Van Molle Inge De Smet Barbara Vertommen D Gevaert Kris De Jaeger Geert Van Montagu Marc Messens Joris Van Breusegem FrankPROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 111, 11545-50, 2014

Job openings


18 of the world’s most influential researchers at VIB

20/11/2019 - Each year, Clarivate analytics identifies the world’s most influential researchers who have been cited most frequently by their peers over the last decade. No less than 18 VIB researchers are part of this highly acclaimed group of influential scientists.

Plant immunity cut to size

21/03/2019 - An international team based in Ghent and Basel, Switzerland found a link between a class of enzymes and immune signals that is rapidly triggered upon physical damage in plants.

Plant DNA detox - new ROS-scavenging pathways found

18/03/2011 - Protection from reactive oxygen species (ROS) is important for safeguarding the integrity of DNA in almost all life forms. Frank Van Breusegem describes new defense mechanisms that are complementary to the action of known nuclear ROS scavengers.

VIB and Bayer join forces for plant research

11/06/2008 - VIB and Bayer CropScience have an ongoing collaboration into the mechanisms with which plants cope with stress factors such as extreme temperatures or persistent drought.

Frank Van Breusegem

Frank Van Breusegem

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


​PhD: Ghent University, Belgium, 1997                           
VIB Group leader since 2001

Contact Info

VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems BiologyUGent-VIB Research Building FSVMTechnologiepark 71 9052 GENTRoute description