Epigenetics and Defence

Plant pathogens cause diseases on crops, leading to significant yield losses in agriculture. One of the major pathogens attacking crops are parasitic nematodes. During their interaction with the plant, these nematodes are influencing the plant immune system to attain plant susceptibility.

Our group is looking for answers on research questions like:

    • Which molecules are important for a plant to defend itself against pathogen attacks?
    • How does the immune system of a plant work?
    • How do pathogens interfere with the plant immune response in order to attain plant disease?
    • How can plant Defence be enhanced by stimulation of the natural immune system?

Research goals

The research group Epigenetics & Defence investigates the plant immune system from a molecular and biochemical point of view. One of our main research models is rice (Oryza sativa), a plant which provides food for more than half of the world's population. But next to that, we also work with major crops like sugar beet, tomato and wheat.

Epigenetics & Defence is studying gene expression changes in infected plants to get insight into the key regulators of plant immune responses. We are trying to understand which epigenetic mechanisms are controlling plant immunity, by investigating DNA-methylation, histone modifications and non-coding RNA profiles.

The plant immune system can be triggered by so-called priming agents. Our research group is identifying novel compounds that can perform this action, and is investigating their mode-of-action. The ultimate aim of this research group is to provide scientific and practical answers to the problems that the agricultural food supply is facing upon changing environmental conditions.


plant-parasitic nematodes, priming, defence elicitors, gene cloning, transcriptome analyses (qRT-PCR and mRNA-seq), epigenome analyses (bisulfite sequencing and ChIP-seq), rice transformation (over-expression and CRISPR/Cas), and reactive oxygen species.

You can watch a short movie about our research here :



Contact information

Please contact professor Tina Kyndt for more information.