Dr Molly Malefo



Postdoctoral Fellow

Department

Plant and Soil Sciences
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I’m currently appointed as a postdoctoral fellow with the Avocado research programme (ARP). My research interest include studying Plant Biotechnology for crop improvement with the main focus on Plant-Pathogen and Plant-Abiotic stress interaction.

My MSc project was based on the characterization of maize pathogen Cercospora zeina which infects maize in South Africa. The research focused on developing transgenic C. zeina pathogen through gene knockout studies using fusion PCR technique, which involved identifying the czk3 gene sequence, replacing the gene with hygromycin, and sequencing the transgenic fungi sequence. We generated transgenic C. zeina lacking a pathogenicity gene and assessed their virulence in Zea maydis.

My Ph.D project was aimed at assessing the role of serine protease inhibitor genes in biotic and abiotic stresses. A Bowman-Birk serine protease inhibitor gene from maize was identified and expressed in Arabidopsis thaliana through Agrobacterium transformation. We assessed the involvement of protease inhibitors in response to drought stress and Pseudomonas syringae in transgenic A. thaliana occurring in combination and individually.

My postdoctoral research focuses on developing a CRISPR-5 Cas9 system for mutagenesis in R. necatrix. I will be identifying R. necatrix putative pathogenicity genes, which will be used for functional analysis to elucidate the mechanisms that mediate the pathogenicity of R. necatrix in Avocado.


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Publication
Malefo M, Mathibela O, Makgopa E, Crampton BG. (2020) Investigating the role of Bowman-Birk serine protease inhibitor in Arabidopsis plants under drought stress. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry 149:286-293. 10.1016/J.PLAPHY.2020.02.007