Organisatieprofiel

Organisatieprofiel

The research of our group focuses on specialized metabolism in plants and the many ways we can utilize those metabolites. Currently we investigate the mechanisms that govern environmental stress tolerance in different crops by integrating functional genomics, metabolomics, as well as protein biochemical and genetic approaches with a focus on terpene metabolic networks. Additional interests of ours are the interactions of plants with their environment and the advancement of regenerative farming.

Improving crop stress tolerance via (terpenoid) specialized metabolites

In a variety of important crops such as maize and rice, defense mechanisms are mediated through terpene biosynthesis. Terpenes are a very large and diverse class of organic compounds which can be found in almost all plants and numerous animals. Many of those terpenes serve as flavors, fragrances, and medicine in our everyday lives.

Since the prediction of terpenoid gene functions are hindered by large gene families with a high sequence identity, genetic and biochemical functional verification is often required. This leads to the development of modular tools and strategies for reducing the pool of candidate genes and enzymes targeted for biochemical studies. Biochemical characterization of selected diTPS via multi-gene combinatorial expression assays in E. coli and Nicotiana benthamiana revealed diverse functions in the biosynthesis of gibberellin phytohormones and an array of specialized diterpenoids with probable roles in the defense against biotic and abiotic stressors.

The potential of terpenoids for promoting sustainable agriculture

To counteract the destructive effects of climate change and poor farming practices, we are motivated to support sustainable agriculture. Some crops like alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) have the potential to even regenerate nutrient-poor soils. With a focus on those restorative crops, our lab is exploring the role of terpenoids for sustainable farming. Terpenoids also act on multiple levels to promote a fully circular agriculture, for example by contributing to plant stress resistance, increasing the nutritional value of crops, and valorization of agro-industrial waste as high-value by-products.

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