Jacqueline Meyer delivered her prestige seminar at FABI and successfully defended her PhD thesis on 8 February. The title of her presentation was: “RNA-Seq and metabolic profiling of resistant and susceptible sub-tropical maize lines reveals a role for kauralexins in resistance to grey leaf spot disease caused by Cercospora zeina”. A PhD student in the Molecular Plant-Pathogen Interactions group, Jacqueline was supervised in her research by Prof. Dave Berger, Dr Shane Murray from the University of Cape Town and Prof. Zander Myburg.

Jacqueline’s oral examination panel included Prof. Eric Schmelz from the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of California, San Diego, Dr Inge Gazendam from the Agricultural Research Council’s Vegetable and Ornamental Plants, and Prof. Marion Meyer from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Pretoria.

Jacqueline’s study explored the maize plant’s (Zea mays) chemical defence strategies, particularly the accumulation of kauralexins in response to attack by C. zeina. Cercospora zeina infection causes grey leaf spot and can lead to massive losses in maize crops. It is especially devastating for subsistence farmers who depend on maize for their livelihood. The project was part of the Genomics of Quantitative Disease Resistance in African Maize Varieties; a TIA-funded initiative between the University of Pretoria, the Centre for Proteomic and Genomic Research, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Pannar Seed (Pty) Ltd.