Professor Jurriaan Ton

School of Biosciences

Professor of Plant Environmental Signalling

Professor Jurriaan Ton
Profile picture of Professor Jurriaan Ton
+44 114 222 0081

Full contact details

Professor Jurriaan Ton
School of Biosciences
Alfred Denny Building
Western Bank
S10 2TN
  • Professor of Plant Environmental Signalling, School of Biosciences, University of Sheffield, UK (2015-present)
  • Co-director of the Plant Production and Protection (P3) Centre of excellence for translational agricultural technologies (2014-present)
  • ERC Research Fellow (Consolidator grant and Proof-of-Concept), Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK (2012-2020)
  • Lecturer, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK (2011-2015)
  • Principal Investigator and BBSRC Research Fellow, Rothamsted Research Centre of Sustainable Pest and Disease Management, UK (2008-2011)
  • Principal Investigator and NWO-VENI Research Fellow, Department of Biology, Plant-Microbe Interactions, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (2004-2008)
  • Postdoctoral researcher, Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Entomology, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland (2004)
  • Postdoctoral researcher, Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland (2001-2003)
  • Postdoctoral researcher, Section Phytopathology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (2001)
  • PhD in Biology, Section Phytopathology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (2001)
  • MSc in Biology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (1996)
Research interests

Our lab investigates how plants employ their immune system to adapt to environmental stress (Wilkinson et al. 2019). Plants in relatively stress-free environments invest most of their resources in growth and reproduction. If plants live in hostile environments and are attacked by harmful microbes or insects, they activate inducible defence mechanisms. Activation of these defences is often costly, due to allocation of limited resources to defensive compounds, or toxicity of the defence response to the plant’s own metabolism. Plants are also capable of acquiring a less costly form of resistance, which can be activated after perception of environmental alarm signals that sensitise the plant’s immune system. This “defence priming” results in a faster and/or stronger defence reaction when the plant is attacked at a later stage.

We have a long-standing interest in the mechanisms by which priming-inducing chemicals, such beta-aminobutyric acid (BABA), are perceived in plants and trigger immune priming. This research has led to the discovery of the BABA receptor, which controls broad-spectrum disease resistance and plant growth via separate signalling pathways (Luna et al., 2014, Schwarzenbacher et al. 2020), and a novel structural analogue of BABA, R-beta-homoserine (RBH), which induces resistance in plants with fewer non-target effects on plant growth (Buswell et al. 2018).

The lab also investigates the epi-genetic basis of immune priming, which stems from our earlier discovery that heavily diseased Arabidopsis plants prime the immune systems of their progeny (Luna et al., 2012). Current research aims to gain a better mechanistic understanding about the role of DNA methylation in long-term immune priming, including transgenerational induced resistance (Lopez, Stassen et al., 2016, Stassen et al. 2018, Furci et al. 2019).

A third research component focuses on the function of root exudation chemistry in shaping disease suppressive microbial soil communities (Rolfe et al. 2019). This research examines the role of secondary metabolites in shaping the composition and disease-suppressive activities of root-associated microbial communities (Neal et al., 2012, Pétriacq et al. 2017, Cotton et al. 2019).

Across all these themes, we collaborate with agritech companies, such as ENZA Zaden, to translate our basic research and optimise crop protection through biological, chemical, and epigenetic strategies that boost the plant's own natural defences.

For more detailed information about current research activities in the lab, please visit:


Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers

Theses / Dissertations

  • Ton J (2001) Rhizobacteria-mediated induced systemic resistance in Arabidopsis: molecular-genetic basis of induced resistance in relation to basal resistance. RIS download Bibtex download


Research group

Research fellows and postdoctoral workers

  • Dr. Roland Schwarzenbacher
  • Dr. Mamadou Cissoko


  • David Pardo
  • Peijun Zhang

PhD students

  • Adam Parker
  • Chi-Nan Tao
  • Mustafa Yassin
  • Emma Moffat
  • Dave Rapley
  • Roberta Fabrizi
  • Samuel Wilkinson


  • Dr. Joost Stassen, The Netherlands.
  • Dr. Leonardo Furci, Okinawa Institute of Science & Technology. Japan.
  • Dr. Alex Williams, University of Manchester, UK.
  • Dr. Will Buswell, BPP University, London.
  • Dr. Rituhree Jain, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. 
  • Dr. Estrella Luna, University of Birmingham, UK.
  • Dr. Pierre Pétriacq, University of Bordeaux, France.
  • Dr. Ana Lopez, CNB-CSIC, Madrid, Spain.
  • Dr. Shakoor Ahmad, The University of Agriculture, Peshawar, Pakistan 
  • Dr. Yuhua Zhang, Guilin Layn Natural Ingredients Corporation, Shanghai, China
  • Dr. Marieke van Hulten, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Dr. Sjoerd van der Ent, Koppert Biological Systems, The Netherlands
Teaching activities
  • APS 135 - Skills for Biologists and level 1 tutorials
  • APS 138 - Molecular and Cell Biology
  • APS 222 - Level 2 tutorials
  • APS 276 - Symbiosis
  • APS 216 - Plant, Cell & Environment
  • APS 355 - Future Plants
  • APS 330 - Level 3 Research Projects
  • APS 331 - Level 3 Dissertations
  • Research projects by MBiolSci, MRes and PhD students
Professional activities and memberships
  • Monitoring editor of Plant Physiology (2012-present)


  • Dr. Stephen Rolfe, APS
  • Dr. Christian Voigt, APS
  • Prof. Julie Scholes, APS
  • Prof. Julie Gray, MBB
  • Dr. Lisa Smith, APS
  • Dr. Stuart Campbell, APS
  • Prof. Jonathan Leake, APS
  • Dr. Vincent Cunliffe, BMS
  • Prof. Duncan Cameron


  • Prof. David Baulcombe, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Prof. Georg Jander, Cornell University, UK
  • Prof. Cathie Martin. JIC, Norwich
  • Dr. Mike Roberts, University of Lancaster, UK
  • Dr. Oliver Berkowitz, Murdoch University, Australia
  • Prof. Vincent Colot, INRA, France
  • Dr. Paal Krokene and Dr. Melissa Megeroy, NIBIO, Norway
  • Dr. Matthias Erb, Univeristy of Bern, Switzerland
  • Dr. Victor Flors, University of Jaume I, Spain
  • Prof. Corné Pieterse, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
  • Dr. Karin Posthuma, ENZA Seeds, Enkuizen, The Netherlands