Characterisation of a novel branch in plant immunity signalling and assessment of its utility to engineer tomato and other dicot crop plants with increased pathogen resistance

01 July 2023 → 30 June 2026
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Plant cell and molecular biology
    • Plant immunology
  • Engineering and technology
    • Other biotechnology, bio-engineering and biosystem engineering not elsewhere classified
  • Agricultural and food sciences
    • Crop science
Plant immunity (past resistance) Plant hormone signaling Tomato
Project description

Plant immunity, for instance resistance to bacterial and fungal pathogens, involves the action of
phytohormones, of which salicylic acid (SA) and jasmonate (JA) are considered the most important.
The past decades, we have seen spectacular progress in our understanding of SA and JA biology. Yet,
many key questions remain unanswered, particularly on the possible complexity in immunity
signalling across the plant kingdom, because our current knowledge is derived mainly from research
in the model plant Arabidopsis. Recent exciting findings from our lab expose the existence of a novel
SA signalling cascade, which acts independent and in parallel with the well-known NPR1-dependent
cascade, in the crop tomato. Importantly, Arabidopsis, as well as all Brassicaceae species, have lost
this parallel SA signalling pathway. Conversely, all other dicots seem to possess it. This means that
the current plant immunity models are incomplete and do not accurately reflect the situation for
most dicots, thus including numerous crops of major socio-economic value, such as tomato, potato,
soybean, cassava, peanut, etc. In this project, we will characterise this novel immunity pathway in
depth, using tomato as the model. The complementary expertise of the two participating labs will
endow this project with the necessary power to drive lab-to-field research; from scientific research in
the lab to the creation of improved stress-resilient crops for agriculture and society.