Moritz Nowack Lab

Research focus

​Programmed cell death (PCD) is a fundamental biological process denoting the genetically encoded, actively controlled suicide of a cell. PCD had its evolutionary origins already billions of years ago in bacteria that defended their clonal colonies against viral attacks by sacrificing individual cells for the greater good of the colony. With the evolution of complex multicellular organisms, PCD has adopted a multitude of functions in physiological and pathological development. In both animals and plants defects in the molecular control of PCD can cause severe developmental aberrations and diseases.

The significance of PCD for human health has been recognized decades ago, and today we have a detailed understanding of the molecular regulation of apoptosis and some other forms of animal PCD. In plants however, we still know comparatively little about PCD – despite the fact that different forms of PCD occur throughout plant life, and many of them are critical for plant health and fitness, as well as for successful growth and reproduction.
Our lab is interested in the molecular control of plant PCD during vegetative and reproductive development. Dozens of different cell types, tissues, and organs execute a tightly regulated, actively controlled cell death in the course of their differentiation and development. We identified several commonly expressed plant cell death markers, suggesting that a conserved PCD core machinery controls initiation and execution of cell death in diverse developmental contexts.

Using cutting edge molecular-, cell- and systems-biology approaches, we are unravelling the mechanisms that control preparation, initiation and execution of plant PCD as an inherent part of cellular differentiation. Most research is performed in the framework of vegetative and reproductive development of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, but additionally, we investigate PCD during fertilization and seed set of maize (Zea mays) as an important seed-producing crop plant. ​


KIRA1 and ORESARA1 terminate flower receptivity by promoting cell death in the stigma of ArabidopsisGao Z* Daneva A* Salanenka Y Van Durme M Huysmans M Lin Z De Winter F Vanneste S Karimi-Dehkordi M Van De Velde J Vandepoele K Van De Walle D Dewettinck K Lambrecht B Nowack MNature Plants, 4, 365-375, 2018* or °: authors contributed equally
RETINOBLASTOMA RELATED1 mediates germline entry in ArabidopsisZhao X Bramsiepe J Van Durme Matthias Komaki S Prusicki M. A Maruyama D Forner J Medzihradszky A Wijnker E Harashima H Lu Y Schmidt A Guthörl D Logrono R. S Guan Y Pochon G Grossniklaus U. Laux T Higashiyama T Lohmann J. U. Nowack Moritz Schnittger ASCIENCE, 356, eaaf6532, 2017
Cyclic programmed cell death stimulates hormone signaling and root development in ArabidopsisXuan W Band L* Kumpf R* Van Damme D Parizot B De Rop G Opdenacker D Möller B Skorzinski N Njo M De Rybel B Audenaert D Nowack M Vanneste S Beeckman TSCIENCE, 351, 384-7, 2016* or °: authors contributed equally
Functions and Regulation of Programmed Cell Death in Plant DevelopmentDaneva A* Gao Z* Van Durme M Nowack MANNUAL REVIEW OF CELL AND DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY, 32, 441-468, 2016* or °: authors contributed equally
A Conserved Core of Programmed Cell Death Indicator Genes Discriminates Developmentally and Environmentally Induced Programmed Cell Death in PlantsOlvera Carrillo Yadira Van Bel Michiel Van Hautegem Tom Fendrych Matyas Huysmans Marlies Simaskova Maria Van Durme Matthias Buscaill P Rivas S Coll N. S Coppens Frederik Maere Steven Nowack MoritzPLANT PHYSIOLOGY, 169, 2684-99, 2015

Job openings


Moritz Nowack receives ERC Consolidator Grant

10/12/2019 - Each year, the European Research Council awards Consolidator Grants to consolidate successful independent careers in outstanding scientific research. Moritz Nowack (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology) has received such a grant.

A CRISPR Knockout

10/10/2019 - A team from the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology, led by Thomas Jacobs, Moritz Nowack, and Tom Beeckman has devised a CRISPR-based tissue-specific knockout system, CRISPR-TSKO.

New insights in cell death in plants might generate new leads for weed control

14/08/2018 - Some plants like the giant sequoia trees can grow into the “Largest Living Things on Earth”. Ironically, most of a tree’s biomass is actually not alive, but is formed by persistent cell corpses that are collectively called wood.

Moritz Nowack

Moritz Nowack

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


​​PhD: Univ of Cologne, Cologne, Germany, 2007
Postdoc.: Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany, 2007-09
VIB Group leader as of October 2009 ​

Contact Info

VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems BiologyUGent-VIB Research Building FSVMTechnologiepark 71 9052 GENTRoute description
Moritz.Nowack@ugent.vib.bePhone: +32 9 331 38 52