Cuscuta species: Model organisms for haustorium development in stem holoparasitic plants


Parasitic plants are notorious for causing serious agricultural losses in many countries. Specialized intrusive organs, haustoria, confer on parasitic plants the ability to acquire water and nutrients from their host plants. Investigating the mechanism involved in haustorium development not only reveals the fascinating mystery of how autotrophic plants evolved parasitism but also provides the foundation […]

Dodder parasitism limited the effect of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on litter decomposition


Effects from parasitism and parasitic litter input can affect the decomposition of litter, but the mechanism is unclear. We hypothesized that the decomposition of litter produced by the holoparasite Cuscuta australis is promoted more strongly by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) than the litter of its host Bidens pilosa and that parasitism by C. australis can […]

Parasitism Shifts the Effects of Native Soil Microbes on the Growth of the Invasive Plant Alternanthera philoxeroides


Soil microbes play an important role in plant invasion, and parasitic plants regulate the growth of invasive plants. However, the mechanisms by which parasitic plants regulate the effects of soil microbes on invasive plants have not been investigated. Here, we used the invasive plant Alternanthera philoxeroides and the holoparasitic plant Cuscuta grovonii to test whether […]

Maize resistance to witchweed through changes in strigolactone biosynthesis


Maize (Zea mays) is a major staple crop in Africa, where its yield and the livelihood of millions are compromised by the parasitic witchweed Striga. Germination of Striga is induced by strigolactones exuded from maize roots into the rhizosphere. In a maize germplasm collection, we identified two strigolactones, zealactol and zealactonoic acid, which stimulate less […]

Effects of Parasitism on the Competitive Ability of Invasive and Native Species


Parasitic plants can often seriously harm host plants and, thus, alter competitive dominance between hosts and neighbouring species. However, whether and how parasitic plants differently affect the competitive abilities of invasive and the native plants have not been tested. In this study, we used Cuscuta grovonii as the parasitic plants and three invasive plants and […]

Parasitic plants indirectly regulate decomposition of soil organic matter


1.     Parasitic plants have been shown to affect soil-organic-matter (SOM) decomposition, but the mechanism is unknown. As arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) can affect decomposition and compete with parasitic plants for carbon, we hypothesized that parasitic plants can indirectly regulate SOM decomposition by suppressing the effects of AMF on decomposition. 2.     To test this hypothesis, we […]

Nitrogen represses haustoria formation through abscisic acid in the parasitic plant Phtheirospermum japonicum

Phtheirospermum haustorium.

The availability of nutrients in the environment can have dramatic effects on plant parasitism, for instance, Striga infestations are reduced in nutrient rich soils. The molecular basis for this phenomenon is not well known so we decided to investigate this further with the Orobanchaceae family member Phtheirospermum japonicum. It’s a facultative parasite which infects Arabidopsis […]

Cuscuta australis Parasitism-Induced Changes in the Proteome and Photosynthetic Parameters of Arabidopsis thaliana


Cuscuta australis is a widely distributed stem parasitic plant, infecting a variety of host plants. Its parasitism has a negative effect on the hosts, mainly due to the exhaustion of nutrients, thus negatively affecting the growth and development. However, recent studies indicated that the effect of parasitism may extend beyond the simple extraction of organic […]

ERC Proof of Concept grant to control witchweed infection in maize

Harro Bouwmeester received a Proof of Concept Grant funded by the European Research Council (ERC) for the project LGSMAIZE. With this grant we will test whether it is possible to genetically modify African maize genotypes so they become resistant to parasitic witchweeds. This can be an enormous asset in the fight against witchweed. The parasitic […]