Tom Beeckman Lab

Research focus

​The root system is fundamental for plant development, is crucial for overall plant growth and  is recently being recognized as the key for future crop productivity improvement.
A major determinant of root system architecture is root branching or the initiation of lateral roots. During root branching renewing mitotic activity in lateral root founder cells is required, however, not sufficient. What is more, lateral root founder cells have to be instructed to undergo formative or asymmetric divisions rather than performing the default proliferative divisions. How organisms can switch from proliferative cell division activity to a formative cell division mode is a central but still unanswered question in biology. The inducibility of the lateral root initiation process by application of plant growth regulators provides an elegant experimental system to tackle this problem.
In Arabidopsis, and most likely in a plethora of plants, the lateral roots are initiated by local activation of pericycle founder cells at the xylem poles. To date, the signaling cascade towards the specification of the lateral root founder cells and the asymmetric divisions is not elucidated, and represents the major theme of our current research. Various independent but complementary transcript profiling studies have been performed using a lateral root inducible system both in Arabidopsis and in maize. Based on the global changes in the transcriptome during the initial phase of lateral root induction, functional analyses of potential key-regulators for root branching are currently being analyzed and put in a molecular model for root branching that is gradually gaining resolution. This molecular framework is used to design strategies to alter/improve crop root systems and will be essential to understand the reaction and adaptation of plants to adverse environmental conditions.


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* These authors contributed equally
Root Cap-Derived Auxin Pre-patterns the Longitudinal Axis of the Arabidopsis RootXuan W* Audenaert D* Parizot B Möller B Njo M De Rybel B De Rop G Van Isterdael G Mahonen A Vanneste S Beeckman TCURRENT BIOLOGY, 25, 1381-8, 2015* These authors contributed equally
Plant development. Arabidopsis NAC45/86 direct sieve element morphogenesis culminating in enucleationFuruta K, Yadav S, Lehesranta S, Belevich I, Miyashima S, Heo J, Vaten A, Lindgren O, De Rybel B, Van Isterdael G, Somervuo P, Lichtenberger R, Rocha R, Thitamadee S, Tahtiharju S, Auvinen P, Beeckman T, Jokitalo E, Helariutta YSCIENCE, 345, 933-7, 2014
PericycleBeeckman T, De Smet ICURRENT BIOLOGY, 24, R378-9, 2014
A role for the root cap in root branching revealed by the non-auxin probe naxillinDe Rybel B, Audenaert D, Xuan W, Overvoorde P, Strader L, Kepinski S, Hoye R, Brisbois R, Parizot B, Vanneste S, Liu X, Gilday A, Graham I, Nguyen L, Jansen L, Njo M, Inzé D, Bartel B, Beeckman TNature Chemical Biology, 8, 798-805, 2012


Cell sorting at VIB

16/04/2015 - Cell sorting technology enables rapid separation of large numbers of specific cell populations with high purity, recovery, and yield, starting from single cell suspensions.

Annuals converted into perennials: Only two genes make the difference between herbaceous plants and trees

07/11/2008 - ​Scientists from VIB at Ghent University have succeeded in converting annual plants into perennials. They discovered that the deactivation of two genes in annuals led to the formation of structures that converted the plant into a perennial.

Origin of root offshoots revealed − possible basis for new ecological agricultural applications

24/10/2008 - VIB researchers at Ghent University have discovered the substance that governs the formation of root offshoots in plants, and how it works. Root offshoots are vitally important for plants – and for farmers.

Plant genes identified that can form the basis for crops that are better adapted to environmental conditions

25/10/2005 - VIB researchers have analyzed a complete plant genome in order to identify the genes that are essential for the formation of capillary roots - the key to a plant’s further growth and development.

Tom Beeckman

Tom Beeckman

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


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

Contact Info

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