Helping plants to cope with insect and pathogen attack

Toxic plant proteinsPlants express a variety of compounds with toxic properties to cope with pathogens and herbivores. A specific class of toxic proteins, the Ribosome-Inactivating Proteins are found in a variety of plant species.

However, not every plant species is equipped with the same battery of defense molecules, and not all ribosome-inactivating proteins are functionally characterized.

Our research is focused on characterizing newly identified ribosome-inactivating proteins including their mode of action, and their antiviral, antifungal and/or entomotoxic properties.

Genetic modification: a tool in research

Genetic modification allows the isolation and transfer from unique properties of one plant species to another. As such, genes encoding ribosome-inactivating proteins which have interesting properties (e.g. antiviral activity) can be transferred to species lacking these proteins.

By analysing the genetically modified plant under infestation, we get information on

  • the characteristics of the involved genes;
  • plant-pathogen interaction;
  • the potential economic value in plant tolerance strategies, such as marker assisted breeding or the development of commercial genetically modified crops.