Back to the wild:
Exploiting immune receptor diversity in wild relatives to improve Brassica crop resistance – Dr. Klaas Bouwmeester (WU – Biosystematics)
Xanthomonas black rot is one of the most destructive diseases of cabbage crops (Brassica). Scarcity and specificity of resistance dictates exploitation of novel genetic resources to improve black rot resistance in Brassica crops. Wild Brassica species co-evolved with Xanthomonas, and form an unexplored genomic reservoir of black rot resistance. In this project we want to explore this natural variation, and study immune receptor diversity across wild Brassica populations. Via an interdisciplinary approach that combines genus-wide comparative genomics and functional studies, we aim to discover novel immune receptors that can be exploited by breeders to acquire cabbage cultivars with enhanced black rot resistance.
A cry for green light sensing in plants – Dr. Charlotte Gommers (WU – Plant Physiology)
Light drives plant growth and development. A range of well-known specialized photoreceptors allow plants to respond to changes in the light environment and ultimately optimize survival. Surprisingly, to date it remains unknown how plants sense green light. In this project, we will explore the function of a putative light receptor, localized inside the chloroplasts, which helps plants to adapt to green-rich shaded areas. For long, the chloroplasts were solely seen as energy factories where light provides the energy for the photosynthesis machinery. The outcomes of this project will not only help to understand how plants see the full spectrum but will additionally shine light on a completely new sensing-role for chloroplasts.
Virus diversity and genome evolution in natural plant ecosystems (V-GENE) – Dr. Anne Kupczok (WU – Bioinformatics)
Plant virus genomes are highly diverse and can evolve rapidly. Whereas most research on plant viruses focuses on agricultural systems, we know little about virus diversity and evolution in natural ecosystems. Natural plant virus communities show a high incidence of asymptomatic and mixed infections, suggesting that evolutionary dynamics in natural virus populations differ from those in agricultural systems. We will study virus diversity and genome evolution in natural plant communities, using state-of-the-art metagenomics and bioinformatics approaches. To this end, several individual plants of various species at several sites have been sampled over time. These results will allow us to characterize virus biodiversity, determine realized virus host ranges and mixed infections, look for evidence of recombination and reassortment events, infer adaptation to different plant species and geographic sites, and identify virus genome regions under selection. Understanding these plant-virus evolutionary dynamics is important for knowing the evolutionary stability and adaptive potential of natural viral reservoirs.