The primary research interest of the Plant Hormone Biology group is the role of plant hormones and other signalling molecules in the communication of plants with beneficial and harmful organisms, particularly in the rhizosphere. For example, we study the exudation by plants of strigolactones into the rhizosphere to signal host presence to the symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and the abuse of this signalling relation by parasitic plants that use the same molecules for host detection. The fact that the strigolactones also have an endogenous signalling function as new class of plant hormones, regulating root and shoot architecture, makes this interaction even more intriguing. The intricate signaling role of the strigolactones has prompted us to also research other rhizosphere signaling relationships such as the induction of cyst nematode hatching by root exudates and the recruitment of the root microbiome by plants. Important aspects of our work on communication are the use of different approaches, including the use of omics technologies, to unravel how these signalling molecules are biosynthesised and perceived, how their production is regulated, and how important they are for the interaction. To be able to do such studies we use a broad range of expertises, ranging from analytical chemistry, including metabolomics, for detection of the signalling molecules, RNAseq and data integration, through molecular biology and biochemistry for the isolation of key genes to metabolic engineering to change signalling molecule production and bioassays to study the consequences of the altered signalling molecule production for the interaction.
Harro Bouwmeester is Chair of Plant Hormone Biology at the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS) of the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The work in his group is multi-disciplinary and centered around signaling molecules and their role in the communication of plants with other organisms, such as parasitic plants, insects, nematodes and the microbiome. Topics that are studied are the discovery of new signaling relations using omics data, the importance of structural diversity in the signaling molecules for biological specificity - for which elucidation of biosynthesis and perception mechanisms are important – and the discovery of unknown roles of signaling molecules.
Prof. Bouwmeester is member of the executive committee of Terpnet, president of the International Parasitic Plant Society (IPPS), member of the American Society for Plant Biologists (ASPB), member of the National Graduate School Experimental Plant Sciences.
He reviews for >20 Journals such as Science, Nature Biotechnology, PNAS, New Phytologist, Plant Physiology, Frontiers in Plant Science, The Plant Journal, The Plant Cell, etc and for Granting agencies such as NSF, SSF, DFG, GIF, BARD, Israeli Ministry of Agriculture Fund, BBSRC, Agence National de la Recherche (ANR).
He is a member of the Editorial boards of The Journal of Plant Interactions, Plant Signalling and Behavior, Frontiers in Plant Biotechnology and Frontiers in Plant Physiology.
Prof. Bouwmeester was organiser of the 2019 World Congress on Parasitic Plants; the 2018 Gordon conference on Plant volatiles; the 1st International Congress on Strigolactones in 2015; the International Terpnet meeting in 2005.
In 2005 prof. Bouwmeester received the prestigious Vici-grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for his work: Chemical communication between host plants and parasitic organisms: who is talking, who is listening (1.2 M€). In 2010 he received the Netherlands Genomics Initiative (NGI) Distinguished Visiting Scientist Stipend (41 k€) for a sabbatical visit to Davis, USA. In 2015 he received an ERC Advanced Grant for a project on Rhizosphere communication in Plants (2.5 M€) and in 2019 an NWO Gravitation grant of 20 M€ to head a consortium working on the plant-root microbiome interaction. In 2019 he was appointed member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences and Arts (KNAW).
Prof. Bouwmeester supervised/is supervising >25 postdocs, >45 PhD students and >50 BSc and MSc students. He tought and teaches in many different courses on Plants and health, Plant biotechnology, Plant physiology, Biology thinktank, Plant disease and resistance and is coordinator of the courses Ecogenomics and Biology Mini-review.