Molecular Ecology of the Rhizosphere

research group Prof. Dr. Joost T. van Dongen

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Plant continuously observe their environment and adjust their molecular, physiological and biochemical behavior according to the triggers that are perceived. Our research group investigates the sensing and signaling cascades that are induced by various environmental triggers to unravel the adaptive response mechanism that allow plants to survive under a wide variety of conditions. We mainly focus on the underground environment, i.e. investigating signals perceived by roots. However, by doing so we consider above-ground responses being equally important for survival.

Low-oxygen perception and concomitant adaptive responses is one of the topics that we investigate. We are working to elucidate the molecular mechanism of oxygen sensing as well as the regulation of primary energy metabolism that is induced by this.

Soil salinity is a major limitation to the performance of many agricultural crops. We are interested in how the initial salt stress signal perceived by the root is translated into a transcriptional response and the resulting biochemical and physiological acclimation at the whole-plant level.

There is growing awareness that plant growth strongly benefits from the bacterial community that is growing inside and around the roots. We perform experiments to decipher the interaction between these organisms that ultimately lead to plant growth promotion.

Control of molecular responses is mediated via the regulation of gene expression and translation. Moreover, a growing body of evidence shows that also the controlled degradation of proteins can play a pivotal role in the sensing and signaling pathway in response to environmental stress. We are working to reveal the role of the N-end rule for proteasomal protein degradation as a tool to mediate stress responses in plants.

Understanding of plant growth and development is a fundamental aspect of biology. Leaf development is under genetic control, but strongly influenced by environmental factors. We aim at understanding transcriptional networks that underlie leaf development, with specific emphasis on expansion growth and senescence.

On the following web-pages, you can find more detailed information about our various research projects and the scientists that are involved. Please don’t hesitate to contact any of us if you would like to obtain more information, or if you would like to join us in one of these projects.