Ms Sithembile Kunene
Plant and Soil Sciences
I completed my BSc honours in agronomy at the University of Zululand and MSc in Crop Science at the University of KwaZulu Natal. I am a PhD candidate in plant biotechnology (Department of Plant and Soil Sciences) under the supervision of Dr Thabiso Motaung.
My research focuses on characterization of extracellular vesicles (EVs) from the genus Pinus. EVs have emerged as a potential class of functional molecules in recent years, sparking new applications as therapeutic carriers released by cells from all kingdoms of life. The overarching theme of my project is to explore the unappreciated carrier effects of these vesicles in pine species grown in South Africa (e.g., P. patula, P. radiate, and pine hybrids) that assist the transfer of bioactive plant-beneficial compounds including antivirulence proteins, secondary metabolites, and nucleic acids, to targeted cells. Therefore, this research will significantly improve our existing understanding of pine biology in its various interactive states as they relate to its natural and or nursery contexts. A range of bioactive compounds that are found in the lumen of Pinus EVs will be revealed and their role in mediating interaction between species in Pinus assessed using Fusarium circinatum as a model pine fungal pathogen.
Several FABI students attended the recent 33rd SANSOR Congress in Cape Town.