Sofie Goormachtig Lab

Research focus

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 controlling rhizospheric interactions such as parasitic plant germination. To achieve our goal, we combine both transcriptomic and proteomic approaches. In-depth analysis of identified genes will certainly provide new insights in how this group of hormones exerts its function in plants and the rhizosphere.

Additionally, 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.


It's Time for Some "Site"-Seeing: Novel Tools to Monitor the Ubiquitin Landscape in Arabidopsis thalianaWalton A* Stes E* Cybulski N Van Bel M Inigo S Nagels Durand A Timmerman E Heyman J Pauwels L De Veylder L Goossens A De Smet I Coppens F Goormachtig S* Gevaert K*PLANT CELL, 28, 6-16, 2016* These authors contributed equally
The Response of the Root Proteome to the Synthetic Strigolactone GR24 in ArabidopsisWalton A, Stes E, Goeminne G, Braem L, Vuylsteke M, Matthys C, De Cuyper C, Staes A, Vandenbussche J, Boyer F, Vanholme R, Fromentin J, Boerjan W, Gevaert K, Goormachtig SMOLECULAR & CELLULAR PROTEOMICS, 15, 2744-55, 2016
Strigolactones spatially influence lateral root development through the cytokinin signaling networkJiang L* Matthys C* Marquez Garcia B De Cuyper C Smet L De Keyser A Boyer F Beeckman T Depuydt S* Goormachtig S*JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BOTANY, 67, 379-89, 2016* These authors contributed equally
Isolation of protein complexes from the model legume Medicago truncatula by tandem affinity purification in hairy root culturesGoossens J De Geyter N Walton A Eeckhout D Mertens J Pollier J Fiallos-Jurado J De Keyser A De Clercq R Van Leene J Gevaert K De Jaeger G Goormachtig S* Goossens A*PLANT JOURNAL, 88, 476-489, 2016* These authors contributed equally
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

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Aphea.Bio aims at leading position in next generation agricultural biologicals

16/06/2017 - VIB, Ghent University and KU Leuven have launched a new spin-off: Aphea.Bio. This new company will develop sustainable agricultural products based on natural microorganisms to increase crop yields and to protect them against specific fungal diseases.

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.

Sofie Goormachtig

Sofie Goormachtig

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


​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

Contact Info

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