PhD student


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I joined FABI at the start of my BSc (Hons) Biotechnology degree in 2012, after completion of a BSc degree in Human Genetics in 2011. My Honours project was conducted under the supervision of Dr Sanushka Naidoo, in the Eucalyptus Pine Pathogen Interactions (EPPI) group. The aim of my project was to ascertain whether terpenoids play a role in Eucalyptus grandis host responses upon infection with Chrysoporthe austroafricana and whether they could be implicated in different tolerance phenotypes observed between host genotypes. I found large differences in terpenoid concentrations between genotypes prior to infection as well as differences in relative expression of terpene synthase marker genes between genotypes after infection.


I am currently busy with my PhD, still under the supervision of Dr Naidoo. My project is focused on investigating the defence mechanisms in pine species to Fusarium circinatum infection. As model species I am studying the defence responses of Pinus patula, a highly susceptible species for which I assembled the first transcriptome reference sequence during my MSc, and low elevation P. tecunumanii, a highly resistant species for which I assembled the first transcriptome reference sequence during my PhD. Comparison of these interactions will be used to build a model of successful and unsuccessful defence to F. circinatum in pine species to provide an idea of what the ideal response should be.

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Visser EA, Wegrzyn JL, Steenkamp ET, Myburg AA, Naidoo S. (2015) Combined de novo and genome guided assembly and annotation of the Pinus patula juvenile shoot transcriptome. BMC Genomics 16:1057. 10.1186/s12864-015-2277-7 PDF
Visser EA, Mangwanda R, Becker JVW, Külheim C, Foley WJ, Myburg AA, Naidoo S. (2015) Foliar terpenoid levels and corresponding gene expression are systemically and differentially induced in Eucalyptus grandis clonal genotypes in response to Chrysoporthe austroafricana challenge. Plant Pathology 64(6):1320-1325. 10.1111/ppa.12368
Naidoo S, Külheim C, Zwart L, Mangwanda R, Oates CN, Visser EA, Wilken FE, Mamni TB, Myburg AA. (2014) Uncovering the defence responses of Eucalyptus to pests and pathogens in the genomics age. Tree Physiology 34(9):931-943. 10.1093/treephys/tpu075 PDF