Every five years, the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) awards the prestigious Excellence Prizes to eminent Flemish researchers with a distinguished career in science. In 2020, two VIB researchers working at Ghent University have received this important recognition for their outstanding scientific career and dedication to research: Prof. Bart Lambrecht (VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research) and prof. Wout Boerjan (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology).

VIB News

Plant cells absorb many important substances through a process called endocytosis. In plants, endocytosis is essential for nutrient uptake, passing on cellular signals and plant-microbe interactions. However, the vital nature of endocytosis makes it challenging to study using methods from classical genetics. Small molecules targeting this process are a good alternative for such studies but in plants, they are lacking. An international collaborative effort of scientists from several VIB Centers, Ghent University and the Free University of Berlin, coordinated by Prof. Jenny Russinova, found a new chemical that blocks endocytosis.

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PSB has submitted an application for a new field trial with genetically modified maize. The maize has been improved by additionally expressing a growth factor called "AN3" in the plants. This growth factor activates genes that are involved in the growth of the plant. As a result of the change, important plant organs such as the leaves become larger and therefore more plant biomass is formed. The maize was produced as part of ongoing research into the growth and development of plants at the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology.

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Knocking out genes is a great way to learn what they do. After all, if you prevent a gene from doing its job and you notice changes, it’s very likely the gene has something to do with it. There is a caveat, though. Mutations in genes that are required for basic cellular functions and/or reproduction often interfere with the generation of homozygous mutant plants, precluding further functional studies. Additionally, some genes have different functions in different parts of a plant, so the effect of a gene in one part could mask the effect elsewhere.

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