The Plant Health and Protection Laboratory is part of the Department of Biosystems at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering of KU Leuven. Professor Barbara De Coninck is the head of the laboratory since October 2016. One of the main research topics within the group is the unraveling of plant root (defense) responses triggered by soil-borne pathogens or beneficial micro-organisms. Research is mainly performed on horticultural crops including tomato and strawberry.
The research group has experience in setting up bioassays to test the interaction between plant roots and micro-organisms and consolidated expertise in transcriptome profiling. Research efforts in the past by Barbara De Coninck (as a postdoc at the PFI-CMPG lab, KU Leuven) have resulted in a better understanding of how beneficial micro-organisms alter the gene expression in the plant. Here, we are analyzing how CLPs alter the root transcriptome of tomato plants. The lab is also investing in developing a semi high-throughput platform based on root protoplasts to study signal transduction and altered gene expression upon CLP treatment.
Currently the lab is gaining expertise in metabolome profiling of root exudates. This will allow us to identify which plant components trigger bacterial CLP production and whether CLPs are able to alter the plant root exudate composition.