Within the soil, plant roots interact with microbial communities, consisting of bacteria and fungi. The observed associations range from mutualistic, over commensalistic to parasitic. These microorganisms live inside the root as endophytes or in close proximity, in the rhizosphere, the soil from which the physico-chemical properties are greatly influenced by the root. We are interested in deciphering the signaling mechanisms that guide interactions between roots and rhizospheric organisms.
In the rhizosphere, plants secrete a variety of compounds to control the interactions with surrounding organisms. One of these compounds are strigolactons (SLs). They are mainly known for the induction of arbuscular mycorrhization (AM) to overcome nutrient limitations. Furthermore, SLs are used as a recognition signal by parasitic weeds such as Orobanche and Striga spp for germination, leading to important crop losses. Finally, they also act as plant hormones by influencing plant architecture through the fine-tuning of shoot branching and root growth. In our lab, we want to expose SL signaling networks in order to understand the role of SLs in root architecture and during the adaptation of root architecture to changing environmental conditions. To achieve our goal, we combine both transcriptomic and proteomic approaches to unravel the signaling pathways. In parallel, a chemical genetics screen is performed to identify chemicals that stimulate or inhibit SL functioning. Finally, in-depth analysis of identified genes and compounds will provide new insights in how this group of hormones exerts its function in plants and rhizosphere.
It has been long known that various microbial strains from the rhizosphere exert plant growth promoting effects in specific biotic and abiotic environments. The underlying mechanisms of plant growth promotion can have several causes: it can occur through protection against pathogens, pests or harsh abiotic environments, through the facilitation of nutrient uptake or through an effect on plant hormone levels and signaling. The use of cultivation independent deep-sequencing technologies has recently shown that the known plant growth promoting microorganisms are only a glance of the microbial community acting in the rhizosphere. Plant roots are colonized by vast amounts of microorganisms, of which many of those might facilitate plant growth. Hence, there is a high potential of identifying new biologicals to boost plant growth in various abiotic and biotic environments by the systematic analysis of rhizosphere samples using the available new technologies. In our lab, we aim at discovering the plant molecular networks that are influenced through interaction with plant growth promoting bacteria as well as bacterial communities. Using both transcriptomic and proteomic approaches, we want to visualize these networks. Eventually, this will help us to establish bacterial inoculants consisting of multiple bacteria that exert synergistic effects on plant growth. These inoculants can potentially be used in the field in order to minimize the use of chemical fertilizer as well as pesticides for crops without yield loss.
From lateral root density to nodule number, the strigolactone analogue GR24 shapes the root architecture of Medicago truncatulaDe Cuyper C, Fromentin J, Yocgo R, De Keyser A, Guillotin B, Kunert K, Boyer F, Goormachtig SJOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BOTANY, 66, 137-46, 2015 Role of LONELY GUY genes in indeterminate nodulation on Medicago truncatulaMortier V, Wasson A, Jaworek P, De Keyser A, Decroos M, Holsters M, Tarkowski P, Mathesius U, Goormachtig SNEW PHYTOLOGIST, 202, 582-93, 2014
15/01/2016 - On 15 January 2016, VIB and the Institute for Agriculture and Fisheries Research (ILVO) signed a strategic collaboration agreement.
PhD: Laboratorium of Genetics, Gent University - 1991-1997
Postdoc.: EMBO fellow at the Institute of Plant Sciences, ETH Zürich, Switzerland - 1998-1999
Post-doctoral fellow of the Fund for Scientific Research (Flanders) at the Department of Molecular Genetics - 1999-2002
VIB Group Leader since 2009