SOL-group - Laboratory of Phytopathology

In the Solanaceae (SOL) group we want to unravel how plants are able to resist harmful pathogens by their innate immune system. For our research we focus on Solanaceous plants as these represent economically important crop plants, such as tomato and potato, and they are also versatile model plants in the lab.

Our research aims at elucidating the molecular mechanism that explains how resistant plants can respond so rapidly and effectively to invading pathogens when the plant contains appropriate immune receptor. We want to obtain more knowledge on the different steps of the signal transduction cascade within the cell that is triggered when an immune receptor gets activated upon contact with a pathogen. Plant immune receptors are also known as disease resistance (R) proteins. We want to decipher how these receptor proteins function at the molecular level, how they get activated and how they initiate the defence signal transduction cascade leading to disease resistance, which is typically associated with the hypersensitive response (HR); a form of programmed cell death. We focus on two classes of immune receptors; the class comprising the trans-membrane receptor-like proteins (RLPs) with their pathogen sensor domain at the extracellular side of the cell (see our project on Cf signaling) and the class that comprises the nucleotide-binding and leucine-rich repeat (NB-LRR) proteins that are localized completely inside the cell (see our projects on Rx and NRC1).

Furthermore, we are interested in the overall changes in the transcriptome, proteome and metabolome of plants that mount a defence response. Besides using pathogen-infected plants we also use plants, known as ‘dying seedlings’. These seedlings are the offspring of two parents: one expressing a specific immune receptor and the other expressing the protein of the pathogen that this immune receptor recognizes. This results in a defence response, which is visible as a systemic HR. The HR induction in the dying seedlings is nicely illustrated in the movie, where the dying seedlings become necrotic and the tissue of the parents stays healthy.

More information about current research projects can be found here.