Ms Gabriélla Clara

MSc student


Plant and Soil Sciences
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Primary Supervisor
Dave Berger

I attained my BSc (Biotechnology) in 2021 and completed my honours degree in 2022, also in biotechnology. I am studying in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, specifically in the Molecular Plant Pathogen Interactions group in FABI, with Prof. Dave Berger as my supervisor and Dr. Dawit Kidanemariam as my co-supervisor.

My honours project was quite exciting and focused on spray-induced gene silencing (SIGS) of critical fungal genes against Cercospora zeina. This pathogen is responsible for grey leaf spot, a disease of maize causing significant yield losses globally. SIGS is an eco-friendly, target specific strategy to combat numerous pests and pathogens without creating transgenic crops. My results showed that dsRNA applied to the fungus successfully silenced expression of the Chitin synthase D gene, which is responsible for chitin synthesis in fungi.

My masters project is also on Cercospora zeina, however I will be using Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation to generate mutants of the fungus in order to investigate gene function. Various phenotypic screens involving the RNAi pathway, growth, melanisation and pathogenicity will be used to investigate the mutants. While most cases of fungal insertional mutagenesis result in loss-of-function mutations, I will be using an activation tagging approach to create both loss- and gain- of-function mutants.