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. Important aspects of his work on communication are how these signalling molecules are biosynthesised and perceived, how their production is regulated, and what happens to the interaction if their production is altered. To be able to do such studies we use a broad range of expertises, ranging from analytical chemistry for detection of the signalling molecules, through molecular biology and biochemistry for the isolation of key genes using state-of-the-art approaches such as the combination of transcriptomics and metabolomics, to metabolic engineering to change signalling molecule production and basic biology to study the consequences of the altered signalling molecule production for the interaction.
Harro Bouwmeester graduated from Wageningen University, the Netherlands in 1990 and worked there as post-doc and scientist in several research institutes and from 2008 as Chair of Plant Physiology at Wageningen University. Since 1 October 2016 he 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 centered around signalling molecules and their role in the communication of plants with other organisms, such as parasitic plants, insects, nematodes and micro-organisms. In this work different expertises are integrated, such as analytical chemistry, plant physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology. 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. The research in the Bouwmeester lab has resulted in many publications in international peer-reviewed journals and an international network, a.o. in the field of terpenoid biosynthesis and strigolactones. At the end of 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Vici-grant for his work on underground chemical communication of plants with parasitic plants and arbsucular mycorrhizal fungi and in 2015 an ERC Advanced grant for work on the evolution of chemical communication in the rhizosphere of plants.
Prof. Bouwmeester reviews for >20 Journals such as Science, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Communications, New Phytologist, Plant Physiology, Journal of Experimental Botany, Frontiers in Plant Science, The Plant Journal, Phytochemistry, Molecular Systems Biology, Planta, Plant Pathology, The Plant Cell, Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, etc. He reviews for Granting agencies such as SSF, NSF, GIF, BBSRC, FWO, ANR, SNSF, FWF.
Plant Biology Europe, June 2018, Copenhangen, Denmark; Plant Microbiome meeting, February 2018, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; ASPB meeting, June 2017, Honolulu, USA; TERPNET meeting, June 2017, Dalian, China; EPSO meeting, June 2016, Prague, Tsjech Republic; Gordon conference Carotenoids, May 2016, Barga, Italy; Gordon conference Plant volatiles, February 2016, Ventura, USA; TERPNET meeting, June 2015, Vancouver, Canada; 13th Meeting of the International Parasitic Plant Society, July 2015, Kunming, China; Isoprenoids meeting, September 2014, Prague, Czech Republic; Gordon Conference Plant volatiles, January 2014, Ventura, USA; Phytochemical Society of Northern America meeting, August 2013, Corvallis, USA; International Plant Growth Substance (IPGSA) meeting, June 2013, Shanghai, China; ACS meeting, March 2012, San Diego, USA; Biotrends meeting, November 2010, Dusseldorf, Germany; Annual Plant Biotech Denmark Meeting, March 2010, Kopenhagen, Denmark; Gordon Conference on Carotenoids, January 2010, Ventura, USA; Gates-funded meeting on Control of Striga, November 2009, Nairobi, Kenya; 8th Société Française de Biologie Végétale SFBV meeting, July 2009, Strasbourg, France.
Prof. Bouwmeester is organiser of the 2019 World Congress on Parasitic Plants, which will be held in Amsterdam in June 2019; he was organiser of the 2018 Gordon conference on Plant volatiles, February 2018, Barga, Italy; Prof. Bouwmeester was organiser of the 1st International Congress on Strigolactones, March 2015, Wageningen, the Netherlands; he co-organised the COST workshop Data handling, interpretation and modelling in terpenoid and PNP biosynthesis, the Netherlands, February 2013; organised the International Terpnet meeting, May 2005, the Netherlands; was co-organiser of the Spring School Chemical Communication: from Gene to Ecosystem March 2005, the Netherlands; member of the scientific committee for the IPPS workshop on parasitic weeds in the International Weed Science Congress in June 2004 in South Africa; member of the scientific committee for the IPPS conferences on Parasitic plants, July 2008 in Turkey and July 2013 in the UK; organiser of the mini-symposium Parasitic plants and strigolactones, more than rhizosphere communication, October 2011, the Netherlands.
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€). In 2018 he will receive the Sandmeyer award of the Swiss Chemical Society for the joint work with Syngenta on the use of strigolactones in agriculture.
Prof. Bouwmeester supervised/is supervising >25 postdocs, >50 PhD students and >60 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 course Ecogenomics.