Ms Shae Swanepoel
I joined FABI during my Honours year in 2019 when I worked under the supervision of Professor Sanushka Naidoo in EPPI. My research project focused on the interaction between Eucalyptus grandis and Austropuccinia psidii (Myrtle rust). This biotrophic pathogen has gained notoriety in recent years, spreading across the globe and affecting countries such as Australia and Brazil. Myrtle rust has a broad host range, reportedly affecting over 445 species within the Myrtle family, including ecologically and economically important hardwood species such as Eucalyptus. Due to its widespread devastation on a broad host range, it has become crucial to understand the molecular mechanisms that govern the interactions between host and pathogen. My honours project involved analysing RNA-sequence data to investigate Eucalyptus grandis defence mechanisms against Myrtle rust and potential mechanisms that contribute to resistance and susceptibility.
Currently, I am continuing with this research as part of my Master’s degree where my focus shifts from the host to the pathogen. With the use of RNA-sequence data, I will analyse the pathogen response in planta to identify putative pathogenicity factors that contribute to its success in susceptible E. grandis hosts and mechanisms that prevent successful colonisation in resistant hosts. With this, candidate genes can be selected for further functional analysis. Ultimately, this will contribute to our understanding of the complex interactions between Eucalyptus and A. psidii, which may aid in development of effective genetic control strategies to combat this devastating pathogen.