In nature, Agrobacteria induce the formation of crown galls or hairy roots on host plants by integrating part of their DNA into the plant genome. They are referred to as nature’s genetic engineers. Pioneered at Ghent University by Marc Van Montagu and Jeff Schell, researchers have harnessed this ability to allow genetic transformation and gene editing of plants. However, susceptibility of plant species and varieties to Agrobacteria varies, necessitating further research and development in this area. Our research focuses on enhancing the efficiency of plant transformation by engineering Agrobacterium strains. This includes gene editing of the Agrobacterium genome itself or optimization of vectors. In addition, we use modern molecular techniques such as interactomics to  get more fundamental insight in the interaction between the plant host and Agrobacterial effector proteins.

Selected publications

  1. Li C.°, Wang L.°, Cseke L.J., Vasconcelos F., Huguet-Tapia J.C., Gassmann W., Pauwels L., White F.F., Dong H. and Yang B.* (2023). Efficient CRISPR-Cas9 based cytosine base editors for phytopathogenic bacteria. Commun. Biol. 6, 56. 
  2. Rodrigues S.D., Karimi M., Impens L., Van Lerberge E., Coussens G., Aesaert S., Rombaut D., Holtappels D., Ibrahim H.M.M., Van Montagu M.*, Wagemans J., Jacobs T.B., De Coninck B.* and Pauwels L.* (2021). Efficient CRISPR-mediated base editing in Agrobacterium spp. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 118, e2013338118.