Spitting worm/Picture: Herman Popeijus

Research Topic: Plant-nematode interactions

Nematode secretions in host parasite interactions

Parasitic nematodes have evolved clever strategies to live inside their hosts for a long time.  Nematodes hijack host cells such that the host reallocates part of its essential resources to the parasite. In many cases this unique phenomenon of nematode parasitism does not elicit a defence response in the host. The key nematode molecules that are accountable for host cell transformation and suppression of the host defence responses are thought be in nematode secretions.               

Nematode secretions are in fact complex mixtures of hundreds of different proteins. Each of these proteins target different cellular and molecular processes in the host. It is our objective to resolve the identity of these individual effectors in nematode secretions and to understand how they contribute to parasitism.

Some of the nematode effectors may actually activate host defence responses, whereas others may suppress immunity in the host. We aim to understand the evolutionary and molecular dynamics between activators and suppressors of host immunity, which is essential knowledge for treatment and control of nematode infections. Our research program includes molecular studies of animal and plant-parasitic nematodes.