Illuminating dark matter in the rhizosphere: Molecular imaging of glycan crosstalk between plants and microbes with chemical probes


In this research program the vital role of glycans in rhizosphere plant-microbe interactions will be studied by a) developing a glycan-based molecular toolkit, and b) imaging its real-time activity in a chip-based rhizosphere model. The program combines my experience in chemical glycobiology with nano- and molecular imaging technology; and applies this to plant science. The proposed new library of bioactive glycan derivatives and the innovative rhizosphere imaging platform will contribute to a better understanding of and control over glycans in relation to the rhizosphere and plant health. This provides new opportunities for and improves sustainable management of this renewable resource.
Glycans are the dark matter of the biological universe, greatly understudied yet omnipresent in all kingdoms of life and vital to fully understanding biological processes. This certainly holds true for the crucial but poorly studied role of glycans in plant roots and the surrounding dynamic microbial community. This interaction zone, called the rhizosphere, is crucial for maintaining plant health. A plant root?s rhizodeposits maintain and mediate the rhizosphere, and a major component of these are mono-, oligo-, poly-saccharides and glycoconjugates. These plant glycans are known to serve as carbon source for microbes. Much less is known about their role as signalling molecules, in rhizosphere chemotaxis and in glycan recycling by microbial salvage pathways. In turn, plants themselves can also respond to microbial glycans and recycle them. Most details of this complex and dynamic rhizosphere glycan cross-talk are unknown. Research into this has been hampered by a lack of suitable chemical probes that would allow for identification of these glycans and their real-time spatiotemporal imaging.
Here I propose a unique strategy to illuminate this uncharted complexity by using a library of tailor-made chemical probes on a novel rhizosphere-on-a-chip model in combination with CLS-microscopy and ambient mass spectrometry imaging.





Dr. ing. T. Wennekes

Verbonden aan

Wageningen University & Research, Agrotechnologie & Voedingswetenschappen, Organische Chemie (ORC)


G.R.J. Leenders MSc, Y.M.C.A. Luijkx, N.B. Niet Bekend en Niet Gebruiken, P. de Saint Aulaire, Dr. ing. T. Wennekes


01/01/2016 tot 13/11/2019