Ikram Blilou


Professor of Plant Science | Principal Investigator of the Laboratory of Plant Cell and Developmental Biology (LPCDB)




Ikram Blilou received her PhD in Plant Physiology from the University of Granada (Spain) in 1998, followed by a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Molecular Genetics at Utrecht University (The Netherlands). Here she was promoted to Assistant Professor in 2003 and to Associate Professor in 2007. In 2012, Blilou became Associate Professor of Plant Developmental Biology at Wageningen University (The Netherlands), where she was a Talented Women Role Models nominee. She joined KAUST in 2017 and became Chair of the Plant Science Program in 2021 before being promoted to Full Professor that same year. In 2020, Blilou won the first prize of the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation.

Research Interests

Blilou's Plant Cell and Developmental Biology research group concentrates on understanding plant developmental processes while focusing on their root system architecture. The date palm, mangrove, and Sodom apple species have shaped their roots to cope with scarce water, high salinity, and poor nutrient availability, characteristics which can be exploited to engineer more resilient crops for arid environments. By revealing strategies employed by the date palm to survive in arid conditions, Blilou’s team establishes genetic tools that allow date palms to grow faster, healthier, and with roots that require even less water. LPCDB also studies the regulatory networks that control protein movement and asymmetric cell division in plant roots.

Selected Publications

  • The Arabidopsis HOBBIT gene encodes a CDC27 homolog that links the plant cell cycle to progression of cell differentiation, Blilou, I. Frugier, F., Folmer, S., Serralbo, O., Willemsen, V., Wolkenfelt, H., Eloy, NB., Ferreira, PC., Weisbeek, P., Scheres B., Genes and Developement, 2002, 16:2566-75.
  • The PIN auxin efflux facilitator network control growth and patterning in Arabidopsis roots, Blilou, I., Xu, J., Widwater, M., Willemsen, V., Paponov, I., Friml, J., Heidstra, R., Aida, M., Palme, K., Scheres, B., Nature, 2005, 433. 39-44.
  • A bistable circuit involving SCARECROW-RETINOBLASTOMA integrates cues to inform asymmetric stem cell division, Cruz-Ramírez A, Díaz-Triviño S, Blilou I, Grieneisen VA, Sozzani R, Zamioudis C, Miskolczi P, Nieuwland J, Benjamins R, et al, Cell, 2012, 150: 1002–1015.
  • The zinc finger BIRD proteins jointly stabilize tissue boundaries by confining the cell fate regulator SHORT-ROOT and contributing to fate specification in Arabidopsis, Long, Y., Smet, W, Cruz-Ramírez, A, Castelijns, B., de Jonge, W, Mähönen, AP., Bouchet, BP., Sanchez Perez, G., Akhmanova, A., Scheres, B., Blilou, I., Plant Cell, 2015, 27, 1185–1199.
  • In vivo FRET-FLIM reveals cell type-specific protein interactions in Arabidopsis roots, Long, Y., Stahl, Y., Weidtkamp-Peters, S., Postma, M., Zhou, W., Goedhart, J., Gadella, TWG Jr, Simon, R., Scheres, B & Blilou, I., Nature, 2017, 548: 97–102.


  • ​​​​​​​​​Postdoctoral Fellow, Molecular Genetics, Utrecht University, Netherlands, 1998-2003
  • PhD, CSIC and University of Granada, Spain, 1998
  • BSc Biology, University Abdelmlek Essadi, Morocco, 1994