Biochemistry & Glycobiology Research group

The laboratory of Biochemistry and Glycobiology studies the biological activities of stress-related proteins in plants.

Leaf epidermal cells with Lectin:GFP expression

Similar to humans, plants are confronted with stress (such as rising temperature, drought, cold, pathogen infection, insect infestation). To survive, plants synthesize small compounds and a variety of proteins. Our research focuses on two important groups of stress-related proteins: lectins and ribosome-inactivating proteins.


Lectins have the ability to recognize and bind specific carbohydrate structures. We investigate the importance of lectins for plant growth and development. Understanding the protein-carbohydrate interactions that take place is important to understand the mode of action of lectins.

    • Some lectins play a role in plant signaling. They can sense changes in the environment and trigger plant responses.
    • Particular lectins in seed and storage tissues are toxic and protect the plant against invading micro-organisms and pests.

Ribosome-inactivating proteins

Ribosome-inactivating proteins are a group of toxic proteins that interfere with protein synthesis. Some ribosome-inactivating proteins from plants display antiviral, antifungal and/or insecticidal activities. Ribosome-inactivating proteins can be used to create immunotoxins for cancer treatments or in the battle against HIV and other viral infections.

Research goals

Modelling of the 3D structure of a RIP from rice.

We study the biological activity and physiological importance of stress-related proteins.

We use transgenic lines to investigate the role of lectins and ribosome-inactivating proteins in the response of the plant to stress. By using recombinant proteins, we study their biological activity. Getting to know the mode of action of proteins contributes to

    • new strategies for crop protection
    • the design or selection of plants with better growth, higher yield, etc. in adverse environmental conditions.


Protein purification and characterization, heterologous protein expression, protein interaction studies, gene expression analyses, plant transformation, analysis of plant performance under stress conditions, stress assays, microscopy, ...

Running projects



Contact information

Please contact professor Els Van Damme for more information.