Ms Manchela Francinah Ratsoma
Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology
Fusarium circinatum is an important fungal pathogen responsible for pitch canker disease in Pinus sp. The pathogen contributes to a significant amount of tree and pine seedlings death. The challenge with F. circinatum is the lack of understanding of its pathogenicity. Therefore, to further enrich this knowledge, I am undertaking a project focusing on understanding the pathogenic strategies employed by F. circinatum during the bidirectional transfer of extracellular vesicles (EVs).
EVs are non-replicative lipid bilayer-enclosed nanoparticles that are naturally shed from a cell. Previously, EVs were regarded only as “trash cans” for waste shed by the cell membrane. However, new findings disputed this notion and reignited a new interest in these nano-vesicles, giving a fresh look into their role in biology. EVs traffic a range of other molecular cargoes in addition to sRNAs (e.g. enzymes, viral particles, lipids, nutrients, metabolites etc.), and in humans these vesicles are presently recognized as useful vectors for drugs because they are composed of cell membranes, rather than synthetic polymers, and as such are better tolerated by the host. More importantly, EVs play a critical role in modulating plant immunity and microbial infections.
This research will occupy an important domain, generally in understanding host-pathogen interactions in the Pinus-F. circinatum patho-system and exploring the potential of EVs as innovative biocontrol.