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Identification of the mode of action of plant defensins during root development and plant defense responses.

Project description

Unravelling the abilities of plant defensins

Defensins are small proteins that can be found in a wide range of organisms including plants. They are known as host defence peptides that work against a wide variety of pathogens. However, recent data shows that they also play a role in important biological functions within plants, such as root development and reproduction. The EU-funded DEF2DEV project aims to shed light on the biological function and mode of action of the plant defensin AtPDF2.3 and its closest homologue AtPDF2.2. The work of the project will help with the identification of novel strategies to cope with biotic stress, and the regulation of root architecture, which will be beneficial for agricultural crops.


Plant defensins are small highly stable peptides and were originally isolated based on their antifungal activity. They are regarded as being an important part in plant innate immunity responses directed against fungal pathogens. Recent data suggests however that their role is not restricted to antimicrobial peptides in the defense response, but also includes important biological functions, such as root development and reproduction. Surprisingly, despite the broad international interest in plant defensins, their mode of action in plant defense responses is still unclear as well as their possible involvement in (other) biological functions. The project aims to unravel in depth the biological function and mode of action of the plant defensin AtPDF2.3 and its closest homologue AtPDF2.2. Our complementary approach will focus on alternative modes of action of these plant defensins relevant for plant defense and root development, allowing to find clear answers about their biological functions, being: (1) their role during root development, (2) their role during plant defense (3) their mode of action in plants and (4) their antifungal mode of action. The envisioned long term goal of this project is to identify novel strategies to cope with biotic stress and regulation of root architecture to be applied on important agricultural crops. The project has a strong multidisciplinary nature, combining bioinformatics, genetics, microbiology and molecular biology approaches. The project bridges the knowledge and expertise of the applicant in root development and confocal microscopy with the that of the host in plant-fungi interactions. With the implementation of the project the applicant will be trained in a new field, being plant-fungi interactions, able to learn new scientific skills and establish herself as high-quality researcher, allowing to take the next steps in her scientific career.



Net EU contribution
€ 166 320,00
Oude markt 13
3000 Leuven

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00