Alain Goossens leads the Specialized Metabolism Group. Across the plant kingdom, the jasmonate hormone steers the delicate balance between growth and the activation of defence programmes, such as the production of bioactive specialized metabolites. Plant cells are capable of producing an overwhelming variety of specialized metabolites, both in terms of complexity and quantity. These small organic molecules allow plants to cope with various types of stresses but often also have biological activities of high interest to human. Yet, this impressive metabolic machinery is still hardly exploited, mainly because of the limited molecular insights into plant specialized metabolism.
By using cutting-edge functional genomics tools, in combination with reverse genetics screenings, we try to identify the essential components acting in the jasmonate signalling network and to characterize the molecular mechanisms driving plant natural product biosynthesis in crop, medicinal and model plants. Besides increasing fundamental knowledge, our gene discoveries serve as a novel resource for (metabolic) engineering tools that will facilitate 1) the creation of a synthetic biology program for the sustainable production of high-value plant natural products and 2) increased crop productivity by improvement of plant growth and defence.