Associate Professor Henk Hilhorst

Honorary Research Associate

I have been a plant physiologist for more than 40 years, specialising in seed biology and technology, but currently with a major focus on plants with vegetative desiccation tolerance, so-called resurrection plants. These plants share many similarities with seeds in coping with severe drought.
I use tools and approaches from various disciplines in my studies, including (post)genomics, molecular genetics, biophysics, physiology and ecology.
After many years of working with model species like Arabidopsis and tomato, I switched to working on non-model species, particularly those that produce desiccation-sensitive (recalcitrant) seeds and resurrection species, with vegetative desiccation tolerance, with the ultimate goal to enhance crop performance in an increasing stressful climate.
As a seed biologist at Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands, I have been studying the development and use of seeds for many years, with an emphasis on the acquisition of desiccation tolerance, dormancy and longevity. Some ten years ago I met Jill Farrant and discovered that she was doing similar research as my work on seeds, but focusing on resurrection plants. We compared our findings and that was the beginning of our intensive (and ongoing) collaboration. We share students, laboratories, results and publications, bringing together our expertise in a systems biology approach.
I have been affiliated with Wageningen University and Research for over 40 years, involved in research and teaching, not only in The Netherlands but in various locations around the globe, including Brazil, Kenya, USA, Canada, Italy, UK and France.
Since my retirement in February 2021, I am a guest-researcher at Wageningen University and appointed Honorary Research Associate at the University of Cape Town, South-Africa.

Selected publications

Farrant, J.M. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2021) Crops for dry environments. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 74: 84-91
Gasparin, E., Faria, J.M.R., Ribeiro, P.R., Ligterink, W. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2021) Loss of viability during dehydration of Araucaria angustifolia (Bertol.) Kuntze seeds is associated with specific gene expression changes. Trees  
Farrant, JM and Hilhorst, HWM (2021) What is dry? Exploring metabolism and molecular mobility at extremely low water contents. Journal of Experimental Botany 72: 1507–1510
Pardo J, Wai CM, Chay H, Madden CF, Hilhorst HWM, Farrant JM, VanBuren R (2020) Intertwined signatures of desiccation and drought tolerance in grasses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 117: 10079-10088
Oliver, M.J., Farrant, J.M., Hilhorst, H.W.M., Mundree, S., Williams, B. and Bewley, J.D. (2020) Desiccation tolerance: Avoiding cellular damage during drying and rehydration. Annual Review of Plant Biology 71: 435-460
Silva Artur, M.A., Rienstra, J., Dennis, T.J., Farrant, J.M., Ligterink, W. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2019) Structural plasticity of intrinsically disordered LEA proteins from Xerophyta schlechteri provides protection in vitro and in vivoFrontiers in Plant Science  
Artur, M.S., Costa, M.C.D., Farrant, J.M. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2019) Genome-level responses to the environment: plant desiccation tolerance. Emerging Topics in Life Sciences doi: 10.1042/ETLS20180139
Hilhorst, H.W.M., Costa, M.C.D. and Farrant, J.M. (2018) A footprint of plant desiccation tolerance. Does it exist? Molecular Plant 11: 1003–1005.
Marques, A., Nijveen, H., Somi, C., Ligterink, W. and Hilhorst, H. (2018) Induction of desiccation tolerance in desiccation sensitive Citrus limon seeds. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 61: 624-638.
Artur, M.S., Zhao, T., Ligterink, W., Schranz, E. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2018) Dissecting the genomic diversification of LATE EMBRYOGENESIS ABUNDANT (LEA) protein gene families in plants. Genome Biology and Evolution 11: 459-471. doi:10.1093/gbe/evy248.
Hilhorst, H.W.M. and Farrant, J.M. (2018) Plant desiccation tolerance: A survival strategy with exceptional prospects for climate smart agriculture. Annual Plant Review On Line. (REVIEW)
Marques, A., Buijs, G., Ligterink, W. and Hilhorst, H. (2018) Evolutionary ecophysiology of seed desiccation sensitivity. Functional Plant Biology (REVIEW)
Maximilian Griesmann, Yue Chang, Xin Liu, Yue Song, Georg Haberer, Matthew B. Crook, Benjamin Billault-Penneteau, Dominique Lauressergues, Leandro Imanishi, Yuda Purwana Roswanjaya, Wouter Kohlen, Petar Pujic, Kai Battenberg, Nicole Alloisio, Yuhu Liang, Henk Hilhorst, Marco G. Salgado, Valerie Hocher, Hassen Gherbi, Sergio Svistoonoff, Jeff J. Doyle, Shixu He, Yan Xu, Hongli Wang, Yuan Fu, Philippe Normand, Alison M. Berry, Luis G. Wall, Jean-Michel Ané, Katharina Pawlowski, Xun Xu, Huanming Yang, Manuel Spannagl, Klaus F. X. Mayer, Gane Ka-Shu Wong, Martin Parniske, Pierre-Marc Delaux, Shifeng Cheng (2018) Phylogenomics reveals multiple losses of the nitrogen-fixing root nodule symbiosis. Science eaat1743 DOI: 10.1126/science.aat1743
Costa, M.C.D., Farrant, J.M. and Hilhorst, H.W.M.  (2017) Orthodox seeds and resurrection plants: two of a kind? Plant Physiology 175: 589–599 (REVIEW)
Pereira, W., Faria, J., José, A., Tonetti, O., Ligterink, W. and Hilhorst, H. (2017) Is the loss of desiccation tolerance in seeds affected by the provenance? South African Journal of Botany 112: 296–302
Costa, M.C.D., Artur, M.A.S., Maia, J., Jonkheer, E., Derks, M.F.L., Nijveen, H., Williams, B., Mundree, S.G., Jiménez-Gómez, J.M., Schijlen, E., Hesselink, T., Ligterink, W., Oliver, M.J., Farrant, J.M. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2017) A ‘footprint’ of desiccation tolerance in the genome of Xerophyta viscosaNature Plants 3: doi:10.1038/nplants.2017.38
Gasparin, E. Faria, J.M.R., José, A.C. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2016) Physiological and ultrastructural responses to dehydration in recalcitrant seeds of Araucaria angustifolia (Bertol.) Kuntze. Seed Science & Technology 45: 112-129
Drost, H.-G.,  Ó'Maoiléidigh, D.S., Gabel, A., Bellstädt, J., Ryan, P.T., Dekkers, B.J.W., Bentsink, L., Silva, A.T., Hilhorst, H.W.M., Ligterink, W.,  Wellmer, F., Grosse, I. and Quint, M. (2016) Post-embryonic hourglass patterns mark ontogenetic transitions in plant development. Molecular Biology and Evolution 33: 1158–1163
Costa, M.C.D., Farrant, J.M., Oliver, M.J., Ligterink, J.W., Buitink, J. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2016) Key genes involved in desiccation tolerance and dormancy across life forms. Plant Science 251: 162-168   
Silva, A.T., Ligterink, W., Ribone, P.A., Chan, R.L. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2016) A predictive co-expression network identifies novel genes controlling the seed-to-seedling phase transition in Arabidopsis thalianaPlant Physiology 170: 2218-2231.
Dekkers, B.J.W., Costa, M.C.D., Maia, J., Bentsink, L. Ligterink, W. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2015) Acquisition and loss of desiccation tolerance in seeds: from experimental model to biological relevance. Planta 241: 563 - 577 (REVIEW)
Costa, M.C.D., Righetti, K., Nijveen, H., Yazdanpanah, F., Ligterink, W., Buitink, J. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2015) A gene co-expression network predicts functional genes controlling the re-establishment of desiccation-tolerance in germinated Arabidopsis thaliana seeds. Planta 242: 435 - 449
Costa, M.C.D., Nijveen, H., Ligterink, W., Buitink, J. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2015) Time-series analysis of the transcriptome of the re-establishment of desiccation tolerance by ABA in germinated Arabidopsis thaliana seeds. Genomics Data  06/2015; 6. DOI: 10.1016/j.gdata.2015.06.003
Maia, J., Dekkers, B.J.W, Dolle, M., Ligterink, W. and Hilhorst, H.W.M. (2014) Abscisic acid (ABA) sensitivity regulates desiccation tolerance in germinated Arabidopsis seeds. New Phytologist 203: 81–93
Maia J, Dekkers BJW, Ligterink W and Hilhorst HWM (2011) The re-establishment of desiccation tolerance in germinated Arabidopsis thaliana seeds and its associated transcriptome. PLoS ONE 6: e29123. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029123

For a full list of publications: