Soaps help plants: Exploiting plant defense compounds to improve disease resistance in chrysanthemum

Plants are in constant battle with pests and pathogens. Plants defend themselves by producing soapy defence compounds to combat fungi and deter insects. Fungi, on the other hand, have found ways to overcome this defence. In this project, I aim to identify soapy compounds in chrysanthemum and exploit these compounds to enhance disease resistance in cut-flowers.


Saponins are bitter tasting defence compounds with detergent ("soapy") properties. They are produced by many plant species and contribute to pest and disease resistance. However, the chemical structures and role of saponins in many plant species remains unknown, and they have not been exploited in commercial crop breeding for pest and disease resistance. The project aims to translate the knowledge emerging from Tomato-Botrytis interaction to the ornamental Chrysanthemum and investigate the potential of saponins in breeding for disease resistance.

Project description

This study aims to identify saponin-rich cultivars and functionally evaluate them using cutting-edge sensor strains developed in my previous research. Elucidating the chemical structure and biosynthetic pathway of chrysanthemum saponins with high efficacy against pests and diseases opens perspectives for breeding chrysanthemum for resistance. Furthermore, the project aims to identify the mechanisms by which fungal pathogens of chrysanthemum can become tolerant to saponins and identify the regulators involved in the response to membrane damage caused by saponins.