Current collaborative opportunities include – flavonoid pathway engineering, production of genistein-rich plants; profiling, evaluation and production of flavors; insect and disease resistance in plant; and production of pharmaceutical and industrial proteins in plants
Plant Research International is one of the market-orientated research
institutes within Wageningen University & Research Centre (Wageningen
UR). It combines leading-edge scientific research with innovation
and an acute eye for business. In addition, it offers next-generation
facilities and technologies, plus a genuine global outlook.
Thanks to the combination of know-how and experience across the
entire spectrum of plant research, Plant Research International
offers unique new perspectives for governments and private companies
for agriculture and horticulture, and for rural and environmental
Japan links include a co-operative research agreement signed between
AFFRCS, MAFF and Wageningen UR in 2002.
From gene to plant and back: linking genomic information
to plant function
The Bioscience Business Unit
Understanding plant organisation is achieved through a synergy
of hypothesis-driven and discovery-driven research. The latter requires
implementation of modern, high throughput platform technologies
coupled to information management aimed at the integration of data
from various fields of knowledge. We have invested strongly in such
technology platforms to enable our scientists to gather comprehensive
sets of data over the entire spectrum of cellular, biochemical and
The unit's research integrates the following fields of technologies:
- Flow cytometry
- Multiple imaging
These technologies are applied in fields including:
- Biotic and abiotic stress physiology
- Nutra- and pharmaceuticals
- Pest and disease resistance
- Industrial products
- Human health
- Plant breeding
- Seed quality
Strategic initiatives in bioinformatics
and systems biology provide the foundation for the comprehensive
management, analysis and integration of all data. En route, from
the genome to the phenotype knowledge is gathered on the genetic
and molecular functions within the complete biological system. The
reconstruction of functional networks allows an understanding and
exploitation of the regulation, organisation, and molecular co-ordination
involved in plant development, physiology and metabolic routes.
The integration of expertise in cell biology, molecular genetic,
plant development, plant physiology, biochemistry and physics provides
innovative perspectives for applications in industry, agriculture
Clients and Collaborations
Dutch clients include the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food
Quality, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the Ministry of Housing,
Spatial Planning and the Environment. Other clients are universities,
research institutes, pharmaceutical companies and life science and
plant breeding companies. Co-operations also exist with many international
research institutions and globally renowned companies.
Genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and phenomics
The group's main expertise lies in fundamental, strategic and
applied research for the identity, structure and function of DNA,
proteins and metabolites and on the quality of seeds, plants and
plant derived products. Key elements here are increasing consumer
demands and safety concerns, environmental issues, the development
of sustainable agriculture, and world food supply. The research
relies on up-to date facilities for whole genome sequencing (Greenomics®),
DNA micro-array production and application, protein extraction,
separation, detection and identification using MS/MS and MALDI and
for metabolomics analysis of plant samples using HPLC-DAD-MS/MS.
Bioinformatics is a rapidly evolving discipline at the
crossroad of biology, computer science and mathematics. Bioinformatic
knowledge accompanies the shift in chosen approach in the life sciences
from hypothesis-driven research to discovery-driven research. Bioinformatics
deals with the management, analysis and integration of the wealth
of data that is generated in the framework of this discovery-driven
research. Building on their early lead in the field of plant bioinformatics,
the group continue's to invest in computational infrastructure and
research to support the high throughput data generation and analysis
Flavour and Fragrances
The biochemical diversity in plants relevant to flavour and
fragrances is enormous. The biosynthesis of these compounds in plants
such as strawberry, raspberry, citrus and tomato are under study.
Results are used in breeding programs towards high quality crops
as well as for development of flavour and fragrance production platforms.
Biosynthetic routes for plant protection
The protection of plants against pathogens and insects is often
based on the presence or induction of compounds that are repellent
or toxic to the attacking organisms, or which attract their enemies.
The group explores the function of these compounds and their expression
in plants and try to exploit these traits in collaboration with
Health promoting plants
Plants have always been used by mankind to promote health and
cure diseases. The group works to unravel the biochemical basis
of the traits of plants of interest to human health. This allows
the identification of metabolic pathways and the exploitation of
these plant traits, for instance by steering the production of flavonoids
in food plants. Compounds like flavonoids form a large and diverse
group of health promoting compounds that occur naturally in vegetables,
fruits and the products derived from them. Similarly, the health
promoting and curing properties of mushrooms and algae are under
study. Enzymes and genes involved in the biosynthesis of above mentioned
compounds are characterised and their usefulness in semi-chemical
synthesis and in microbial expression systems is evaluated.
Vaccines, plantibodies and medicines
Plants have been identified as promising hosts for the production
of commercially interesting pharmaceutical proteins. Bulk quantities
can be produced at low cost and, importantly, plants do not transmit
infectious particles such as viruses that could be harmful to humans.
The group has the know-how to exploit plants as factories for oral
vaccines, antibodies and other medicines. Collaboration with world-wide
industrial players enhances the group's position in the field of
human-like glycan biosynthesis in plants.
Allergy and Celiac disease
A clear increase in allergy has been documented, particularly
in the west Europe. The group has developed expertise to identity
and characterise the causative epitopes and the corresponding genes
in plant species such as apple and strawberry. This knowledge is
applied for developing hypoallergenic crops. Similarly, the group's
extensive wheat collection is screened for varieties that can be
developed into cultivars with good industrial properties, while
still safe for celiac disease patients. These research programs
are executed in consortium with medicinal- and food processing research
Gene regulatory networks
Functional genomics strategies are developed and used to unravel
key genes regulating basic plant processes involved in protection
against biotic and abiotic factors limiting plant production. Genetic
strategies using natural variation, loss-of-function and novel gain-of-function
insertional mutagenesis approaches in a number of model and important
crop plants identify genes conferring valuable agricultural traits.
The characterisation of genes regulating the expression of valuable
traits offers insights into the genetic networks of the plant traits
and employment for trait improvement in crop plants.
Insight into plant developmental processes contributes to the development
of new crops adapted to a wide variety of environmental conditions.
The group develops molecular markers and other diagnostic tools
for the rapid screening of plants for their capacity to adapt to
biotic and abiotic stress. Novel genes that are key regulators for
plant development are being identified and functionally characterised,
which enables the well-directed alteration of plant architecture.
Seed production and quality
The MIPS facility: a breakthrough in experimental plant sciences
Novel breeding tools and modification of the plant life cycle will
accelerate the breeding process and the development of alternatives
for current production methods. Research on apomixis, juvenility
(flowering), reproductive mechanisms, seed development and germination
are the key topics here. Fundamental knowledge on seed development
can be applied to produce more nutritious seeds.
Healthy and vigorous propagation material is essential for crop
productivity. Research is performed on markers for seed quality
and stress tolerance. Epidemiological research reveals critical
control points for minimising the transmission of seed borne pathogens
and alternative methods are developed to eliminate pathogens on
the seeds. This is an important aspect in the optimisation of seed
production for organic agriculture.
Since reproductive organs of plants are the most important source
of our food, nutritional value is also studied and exploited. The
group is part of the Wageningen
Seed Centre, a collaboration of teams involved in the research
and education on seed related issues.
For both organic and conventional farming, high-quality plant
material is essential for good crop yield and quality. The group's
research focuses on developing and using non-invasive techniques for
plant quality analysis for which the Multiple Image Plant Stress facility
has been developed. MIPS allows automated, long running and detailed
measurements on large groups of plants. This robotised facility produces
images of plants and plant organs using different light spectra. These
images are used to detect and study biotic and abiotic stress in plants.
The GreenFlow facility for high throughput
analysis of cells, cell organelles and molecules
The group's flow cytometry facility offers the possibility for
the individual analysis of cells, cell organelles and other microscopic
particles with a rate up to 80.000 particles per second. Equipped
with a high-throughput sorter, it is possible to perform sorting
of populations, under sterile conditions if required, for cloning,
culturing or further studies. The group has experience in areas
such as the analysis of algae, bacteria, fungi, yeast, nuclei, mitochondria,
cell cycle activity, protein-protein interactions; selection of
antibody producing cells; and for SNP detection. The GreenFlow facility acts as
Centre of Expertise for applications in the areas of agro-food and
genomics research for one of the world leading flow cytometer manufacturers.
Bio-Nanotechnology and Microsystems technology
The efficient characterisation of gene function is one of the
key priorities in the post genomic era. The group is involved in
efforts to develop in vitro techniques to go from gene to analysed
enzyme product in a highly parallel set up with very short turnover
times. Bio-nanotechnology and micro-systems technologies are crucial
in that respect. Knowledge of the potential function of a novel
compound for food or health is crucial in determining its societal
and economic value. Bio-nanotechnology offers possibilities to discover
function of compounds at an early stage using highly parallel biosensors
for a range of relevant biological receptors.
ImpactVector: providing the research community with innovative
is an initiative to provide the research community with optimized
research materials such as plant expression vectors. ImpactVector
presently offers a product line of 10 vectors all based on the very
strong, light-regulated Rubisco promoter. They provide the researcher
with a set of targeting and tagging tools for which there is no
equivalent in the market. The ImpactVector 1-series performs 8 times
better than the CaMV35S promoter with expression levels of more
than 7% of total soluble protein.
Plant Research International is currently offering specific opportunities relating to flavonoid pathway engineering, production of genistein-rich plants and profiling, evaluation and production of flavors.
For additional details please go to the PRI
homepage or contact us.