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Prof. H.J. Bouwmeester (1960) has been appointed professor of Plant Hormone Biology at the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

Prof Harro Bouwmeester, Plant Hormone Biology
Credits: Dirk Gillissen

Underground interaction

Harro Bouwmeester's research focuses on how plants communicate with other organisms, and specifically on the role of signalling molecules. In particular, he is interested in communication below-ground among plants and between plants and insects, nematodes, bacteria and fungi.

Friend and foe

Signalling molecules are crucial for communication in the region around the roots of plants, known as the rhizosphere. An example of such molecules are the strigolactones, which are active in very low concentrations and are used by plant-friendly symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi to find their host plant (which they need to grow). But strigolactones are also used by plant foes, such as parasitic plants, as a germination stimulant. And strigolactones are also used by plants themselves, as a hormone that regulates plant branching and root architecture. Together with his newly formed Plant Hormone Biology research group at the UvA's Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS), Bouwmeester will be delving deeper into the combined positive and negative signalling functions of strigolactones and other signalling agents in the rhizosphere. Ultimately, he hopes to gain further insight into the biological significance of signalling agents and their interaction with (other) plant hormones.

Sharing knowledge

In addition to his research, Bouwmeester will be teaching plant biology courses in the Biology and Biological Sciences Bachelor's and Master's programmes, respectively. He will also be contributing his expertise in molecular life sciences and biochemistry through lectures, and his research into communication in the rhizosphere to ecology courses and the Future Planet Studies Bachelor's curriculum.

Bouwmeester also shares his knowledge on parasitic plants with scientists in developing countries, especially in Africa, to aid in the fight against Striga, a parasitic weed that is a massive problem for farmers in Africa.

About Bouwmeester

Before joining the UvA, Bouwmeester was professor of Plant Physiology at Wageningen University. He has received a large number of research grants, including a prestigious Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) in 2015 for his work on rhizosphere communication in plants. Bouwmeester is the author of more than 200 publications in international peer-reviewed journals including Nature, Science, Nature Genetics and PNAS, and is also a member of the editorial board of several academic journals, including Plant Signalling and Behaviour and Frontiers in Plant Physiology.