Prof Lucy Moleleki

Senior Lecturer


Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology
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I obtained my Masters from the University of Natal. I thereafter worked for 4 years as assistant researcher officer at the South African Sugar Experiment Station (Now South African Sugar Research Institute).  During my appointment at SASRI, I investigated the interaction between sugarcane smut and host, sugarcane, using cDNA-AFLP.  I then worked as a lecturer at the University of Johannesburg.  In 2004, I was awarded the prestigious commonwealth Scholarship to undertake my PhD studies at the University of Dundee (based at the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) now The James Hutton Institute) under the supervision of Prof Paul Birch and Dr Ian Toth. During my PhD studies, I investigated host pathogen interaction between the soft rot pathogen Pectobacterium atrosepticum and its  host potato).

I am  currently the research group leader of bacterial genomics and host pathogen interactions. Our research has two major components. The first area of our research is towards understanding virulence mechanisms of soft rot pathogens (specifically Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp brasiliense) and how these bacteria interact within their major host potato. We are also interested in studying host defences in potato plants elicited by the soft rot pathogens. The second focus area is on root knot nematodes of potatoes. In this area of research we endeavored to better understand the threat posed by root knot nematodes to the potato industry through understanding the diversity and overall impact of RKN on potato production. We are funded mainly by the National Research Foundation (NRF), Potatoes South Africa (PSA) and NRF (THRIP), International Foundation for Science (IFS), Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) and various other funding bodies.

The group currently has 4 (2 main supervisor) PhD students and 4 MSc students. Some of the current projects include understanding host defence mechanisms in potato in a compatible vs incompatible interaction with P. c. brasiliense) and functional characterisation of major virulence genes of the same pathogen.


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Book Chapters
Siphathele Sibanda, Lucy Moleleki, Divine Shyntum, Teresa Coutinho. 2018. Quorum Sensing in Gram-Negative Plant Pathogenic Bacteria. In: Advances in Plant Pathology. Intechopen., London SE1 9SG, United Kingdom, pp 67-89.
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Chepsergon J, Moleleki LN. (2023) “Order from disordered”: Potential role of intrinsically disordered regions in phytopathogenic oomycete intracellular effector proteins. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 75:102402. 10.1016/j.pbi.2023.102402
Macharia TN, Duong TA, Moleleki LN. (2023) n silico secretome analyses of the polyphagous root-knot nematode Meloidogyne javanica: a resource for studying M. javanica secreted proteins. BMC Genomics 24:296. 10.1186/s12864-023-09366-6
Chepsergon J, Lucy N Moleleki. (2023) Rhizosphere bacterial interactions and impact on plant health. Current Opinion in Microbiology 73:102297. 10.1016/j.mib.2023.102297
Jane Chepsergon, Celiwe Nxumalo, Brenda Salasini, Aquillah Kanzi, Lucy Moleleki. (2022) Short Linear Motifs (SLiMs) in “Core” RxLR effectors of Phytophthora parasitica var. nicotianae: A case of PpRxLR1 effector. Microbiology Spectrum 10(2) 10.1128/spectrum.01774-21
Jane Chepsergon, Thabiso E. Motaung, Lucy Novungayo Moleleki. (2021) “Core” RxLR effectors in phytopathogenic oomycetes: A promising way to breeding for durable resistance in plants?. Virulence 12(1):1921-1935. 10.1080/21505594.2021.1948277
Collins Kipngetich Tanui, Divine Yutefar Shyntum, Precious K. Sedibane, Daniel Bellieny-Rabelo, Lucy N. Moleleki. (2021) Pectobacterium brasiliense 1692 chemotactic responses and the role of methyl-accepting chemotactic proteins in ecological fitness. 12 10.3389/fpls.2021.650894 PDF
Chepsergon J, Motaung TE, Bellieny-Rabelo D, Moleleki LN. (2020) Organize, Don’t Agonize: Strategic Success of Phytophthora Species. Microorganisms 8(6):917. 10.3390/microorganisms8060917
Shin G, Schacterle JK, Shyntum DY, Moleleki LN, Coutinho T, Sundin GW. (2019) Functional characterization of a global virulence regulator Hfq and identification of Hfq-dependent sRNAs in the plant pathogen Pantoea ananatis. Frontiers in Microbiology 10:1-19. 10.3389/fmicb.2019.02075
Siphathele Sibanda, Stanford Kwenda, Collins K. Tanui, Divine Shyntum, Teresa Coutinho, Lucy Moleleki. (2018) Transcriptome profiling reveals the EanI/R quorum sensing regulon in Pantoea ananatis LMG 2665T. Genes 9(3):148. 10.3390/genes9030148
Tanui CK, Shyntum DY, Priem SL, Theron J, Moleleki LN. (2017) Influence of the ferric uptake regulator (Fur) protein on pathogenicity in Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. brasiliense. Plos One 5(12) 10.1371/journal.pone.0177647
Zwart L, Berger DK, Moleleki LN, Van der Merwe NA, Myburg AA, Naidoo S. (2017) Evidence for salicylic acid signalling and histological changes in the defence response of Eucalyptus grandis to Chrysoporthe austroafricana. Scientific Reports 7:45402. 10.1038/srep45402 PDF
Gorshkov V, Kwenda S, Petrova O, Osipova E, Gogolev Y, Moleleki LN. (2017) Global Gene Expression Analysis of Cross-Protected Phenotype of Pectobacterium atrosepticum. PLoS ONE 12(1) 10.1371/journal.pone.0169536
Kwenda S, Motlolometsi TV, Birch PRJ, Moleleki LN. (2016) RNA-seq profiling reveals defense responses in a tolerant potato cultivar to stem infection by Pectobacterium carotovorum ssp. brasiliense. Frontiers in Plant Science 7(1905) 10.3389/fpls.2016.01905
Kwenda S, Birch PRJ, Moleleki LN. (2016) Genome-wide identification of potato long intergenic noncoding RNAs responsive to Pectobacterium carotovorum subspecies brasiliense infection. BMC Genomics 17(614) 10.1186/s12864-016-2967-9
Sibanda S, Theron J, Shyntum DY, Moleleki LN, Coutinho TA. (2016) Characterization of two LuxI/R homologs in Pantoea ananatis LMG 2665 T. Canadian Journal of Microbiology 62(11):893-903. 10.1139/cjm-2016-0143
Moleleki LN, Pretorius RG, Tanui CK, Mosina G, Theron J. (2016) A quorum sensing‐defective mutant of Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. brasiliense 1692 is attenuated in virulence and unable to occlude xylem tissue of susceptible potato plant stems. Molecular Plant Pathology 10.1111/mpp.12372
Kwenda S, Gorshkov V, Ramesh AM, Naidoo S, Rubagotti E, Birch PRJ, Moleleki LN. (2016) Discovery and profiling of small RNAs responsive to stress conditions in the plant pathogen Pectobacterium atrosepticum. BMC Genomics 17(1) 10.1186/s12864-016-2376-0
Onkendi EM, Ramesh AM, Kwenda S, Naidoo S, Moleleki LN. (2016) Draft Genome Sequence of a Virulent Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. brasiliense Isolate Causing Soft Rot of Cucumber. Genome Announcements 4(1) 10.1128/genomeA.01530-15 PDF
Ronishree Magwanda, Lizahn Zwart, Nicolaas A. van der Merwe, Lucy Moleleki, Dave Kenneth Berger, Alexander A. Myburg, Sanushka Naidoo. (2016) Localization and Transcriptional Responses of Chrysoporthe austroafricana in Eucalyptus grandis Identify Putative Pathogenicity Factors. Front. Microbiol. 10.3389/fmicb.2016.01953
Mongae A, Moleleki L. (2015) The effect of β-aminobutyric acid (BABA) on root knot nematode and soft rot pathogen disease complexes in Solanum tuberosum plants. European Journal of Plant Pathology 142(1):117-124. 10.1007/s10658-015-0596-9
Shyntum D, Theron J, Moleleki L, Toth I, Venter SN, Coutinho TA. (2015) Pantoea ananatis utilizes a type VI secretion system for pathogenesis and bacterial competition. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions 28(4):420-431. 10.1094/MPMI-07-14-0219-R
Onkendi EM, Moleleki LN. (2014) Characterization of Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. carotovorum and brasiliense from diseased potatoes in Kenya. European Journal of Plant Pathology 139:557-566. 10.1007/s10658-014-0411-z
Shyntum DY, Venter SN, Moleleki LN, Toth I, Coutinho TA. (2014) Comparative genomics of type VI secretion systems in strains of Pantoea ananatis from different environments. BMC Genomics 15:163. 10.1186/1471-2164-15-163
Onkendi EM, Kariuki GM, Marais M, Moleleki LN. (2014) Threat of root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.) in Africa: a review. Plant Pathology 63(4):727-737. 10.1111/ppa.12202
Petrova O, Gorshkov V, Daminova A, Ageeva M, Moleleki LN, Gogolev Y. (2014) Stress response in Pectobacterium atrosepticum SCRI1043 under starvation conditions: adaptive reactions at a low population density. Research Microbiology 165(2):119-127. 10.1016/j.resmic.2013.11.004
Onkendi EM, Maluleke N, Moleleki LN. (2013) First report of Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. brasiliense causing soft rot and blackleg diseases of potatoes in Kenya. Plant Disease 98(5):684. 10.1094/PDIS-09-13-0988-PDN
Kubheka GC, Coutinho T, Moleleki N, Moleleki LN. (2013) Colonisation patterns of a mCherry-tagged Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. brasiliense in potato. Phytopathology 103(12):1269-1279. 10.1094/PHYTO-02-13-0049-R
Onkendi EM, Moleleki LN. (2013) Genetic diversity of root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.) in potatoes from South Africa. Plant Pathology 62 :1184–1192. 10.1111/ppa.12035
Amy Charkowski, Sylvie Reverchon, Pablo Rodr´ıguez Palenzuela, Michael San Francisco, Ian Toth, Shinji Tsuyumu, Jacquie van der Waals, Jan van der Wolf, Fr´ed´erique Van Gijsegem, Ching-Hong Yang, Nicole Perna, Andrew Pitman, Minna Pirhonen, Carlos Blanco, Guy Condemine, Dominique Expert, Thierry Franza, Christopher Hayes, Nicole Hugouvieux-Cotte-Pattat, Emilia L´ opez Solanilla, David Low, Lucy Moleleki, Iris Yedidia. (2012) The role of secretion systems and small molecules in soft rot Enterobacteriaceae pathogenicity. Annual Review of Phyotopathology 50:425-49. 10.1146/annurev-phyto-081211-173013
Mongae A, Kubheka GC, Moleleki N, Moleleki LN. (2012) The use of fluorescent protein tagging to study interactions between Root Knot Nematodes and Soft Rot Enterobacteriaceae. Letters in Applied Microbiology 56(4):258-63. 10.1111/lam.12045
Onkendi EM, Moleleki LN. (2012) Detection of Meloidogyne enterolobii in potatoes in South Africa and phylogenetic analysis based on intergenic region and the mitochondrial DNA sequences. European Journal of Plant Pathology 135(1):1-5. 10.1007/s10658-012-0142-y
Bulani IS, Moleleki LN, Albertyn J, Moleleki N. (2012) Development of a novel rDNA based plasmid for enhanced cell surface display on Yarrowia lipolytica. AMB Express 2:27. 10.1186/2191-0855-2-27
Moleleki LN, Mongae A, Onkendi EM, Kubheka GC. (2012) Characterisation of Pectobacterium wasabiae causing blackleg and soft rot diseases in South Africa. European Journal of Plant Pathology 135:279-288. 10.1007/s10658-012-0084-4
Toth IK , Birch PRJ , Liu H , Pritchard L , Humphries s, Ravensdale M , Moleleki L , Gilroy EM. (2008) What will a genome sequence do for fire blight research? Pectobacterium atrosepticum and potato - A case study. Acta Horticulturae 793:157-162.
Whisson SC, Pritchard L, Toth IK, Hein I, Chapman S, van West P, Grouffaud S, Armstrong MR, Gilroy EM, Morales JG, Avrova AO, Moleleki L, Boevink PC, Birch PR. (2007) A translocation signal for delivery of oomycete effector proteins into host plant cells. Nature 7166 :115-8. 10.1038/nature06203
Toth IK, Birch PRJ, Liu H, Pritchard L, Humphris S, Ravensdale M, Moleleki L, Gilroy EM. (2007) What will a genome sequence do for fire blight research? Pectobacterium atrosepticum and potato - A case study. Acta Horticulturae 793:157-162.
Heinze B, Thokoane LN, Williams NJ, Barnes JM, Rutherford RS. (2001) The smut-sugarcane interaction as a model system for the integration of marker discovery and gene isolation. Proc. S. Afr. Sug. Technol. Ass 75 :88-93.
Thokoane LN, Rutherford RS. (2001) cDNA-AFLP differential display of sugarcane (Saccharum spp, hybrids) genes induced by challenge with the fungal pathogen Ustilago scitaminea (sugarcane smut). Proc. S. Afr. Sug. Technol. Ass 75:104-107.
Watt MP, Thokoane LN, Mycock D, Blakeway F. (2000) In vitro storage of Eucalyptus grandis germplasm under minimal growth conditions. Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture 61 (2 ):161-164.
Thokoane LN, Butterfield MK, Harvey M, Huckett BI. (1999) Progress towards a fingertyping database for sugarcane varieties. Proc S Afr Sug Technol. Ass 73:165-.