Research conducted by the Laboratory of Nematology is part of the research program of the Graduate School 'Experimental Plant Sciences' (EPS) and the 'C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology & Resource Conservation' (PE&RC).
The chairgroup Nematology studies the biology of nematodes (roundworms) with the aim to understand and predict their functioning in agricultural and natural ecosystems. This is accomplished by hypothesis-driven research on the molecular and genetic interactions between nematodes and their environment, including both biotic (e.g., bacteria, plants and animals) and abiotic factors (e.g., temperature and drought). Special attention is given to the identification of nematode secretions and their role in suppressing and activating the immune systems of plants and animals. The primary objective herein is to understand the molecular dialogue between host and parasite that allow nematodes to complete their life cycle. An important research theme is to understand how plant parasitic nematodes, such as cyst and root knot nematodes, manipulate their hosts to form highly specialised feeding cell structures without triggering an immune response in the host plant. Similarly, the chairgroup studies how secretory glycoproteins of parasitic worms (helminths) achieve long-term infections by actively modulating the immune system of animals. A second key objective is to study the function of nematodes in terrestrial food webs and unravel their role in multitrophic interactions, including connections with aboveground organisms. Finally, the bacterivorous nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is used as a model system to test novel concepts to elucidate the genetic and molecular mechanisms that determine development, lifespan, plasticity and adaptation of nematodes species in a diverse range of environments.
The research performed in the group of Nematology is divided into several topics, which are listed below.