Imagine you were able to grow an extra arm when desired. While most vertebrates are unable to re-activate organ formation, plants have the remarkable capability of continuously re-activating organogenesis throughout their life. Because of this, the full form of the plant body is not predefined during embryogenesis. This plasticity is achieved post-embryonically through the formation of new axes of growth: so-called secondary meristems. These meristems harbour plant stem cells, which are undifferentiated cells that provide a steady supply of organ precursor cells.
The main mechanism by which secondary meristems are initiated is through the activation of lateral organ founder cells. A key feature of this type of meristem initiation is that cells are set aside and retain a stem cell-like identity until they are activated later to form a new meristem. However, in some cases an even greater form of plasticity is achieved: so called de novo meristem initiation. In contrast to founder cells, these meristems are initiated from fully differentiated cells.
As a plant physiologist, I am mainly interested in the mechanisms controlling a plants ability to initiate meristems de novo, and what defines that some tissues are able to do this whereas others cannot. This with an emphasis on plant hormones and gene regulatory networks. My team focusses on analysing the hormonal-transcriptional network during the initiation of de novo meristems at a cell type specific resolution.
Although shoot branching is crucial to determine the overall plant architecture in response to the environment, in agriculture this is often regarded as a problem. Much of a plants resources is invested in the formation of axillary buds and their outgrowth, thus reducing yield. As such, understanding - and ultimately controlling de novo meristem formation could contribute to improve agricultural practice.
Methods of controlling plant architecture and plants with modified branchingOctrooinummer: GB0918860.8, gepubliceerd: 2009-01-01.
Strigolactones: ecological significance and use as a target for parasitic plant controlPest Management Science 65 (2009)5. - ISSN 1526-498X - p. 471 - 477.
Unravelling the strigolactone biosynthetic pathway: nutrient deficiency and ABA regulation
Tomato strigolactones are derived from carotenoids and their biosynthesis is promoted by phosphate starvationNew Phytologist 178 (2008)4. - ISSN 0028-646X - p. 863 - 874.
Susceptibility of the Tomato Mutant High Pigment-2dg (hp-2dg) to Orobanche spp. InfectionJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 56 (2008)15. - ISSN 0021-8561 - p. 6326 - 6332.
Terpenoid rhizosphere signalling
Ondergrondse communicatie: de driehoeksrelatie gastheerplant, parasitaire plant en mycorrhiza-schimmelGewasbescherming 38 (2007)4. - ISSN 0166-6495 - p. 145 - 149.