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Molecular Plant : Microbe Interactions

 Logo of Molecular Plant : Microbe Interactions - Biochemistry, Biotechnology & Molecular Biology

GROUP LEADERS: 

​​The primary objective of the research is to investigate the biochemical basis of inducible defense responses in crop plants towards pathogenic organisms to be able to manipulate the process to enhance natural disease resistance and to induce crop protection through measures that are benign to the environment. The focus of the research is on plant and microbial biochemistry, especially with regard to the complex plant : microbe interactions between plants and their pathogens that might lead to either disease or resistance depending on the perception capacity of the plant. The induction of defense-related genes and the immunization of plants against diseases that result in induced or acquired resistance are investigated. The aim is to develop novel strategies for crop protection, to complement traditional plant breeding efforts and to reduce the expense and environmental costs of reliance on conventional pesticide treatments.

 
Fields of Interest: Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Agricultural Biotechnology, Crop Protection.
Areas of Expertise: Molecular Biology, Transcriptomics, Proteomics, Metabolomics, Plant Tissue Culture.
Specialization areas: Secondary Plant Metabolism, Defense Responses of Plants, Innate Immunity, Plant : Pathogen Interactions, Adaptation Mechanisms of Plants to Environmental Stresses.
Specific Approaches: Metabolic Control, Signal Molecules, Signal Transduction Mechanisms, Gene Activation, Regulation of Gene Expression.

 
AVAILABLE SPECIALISED EQUIPMENT
  • GC-FID, HPLC-PDA, GC-MS, NMR
  • UPLC-MS, GC-MS and MALDI-TOF MS
  • FLOW CYTOMETER
  • HIGH-RESOLUTION MELT GRADIENT REAL-TIME PCR

COLLABORATIONS​
Prof. T. Nürnberger and Dr. B. Kemmerling, Centre for Molecular Plant Biology, University of Tübingen, Germany.
Prof. A. Molinaro, Department of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy.
Prof. J. Durner, Institute for Biochemical Plant Pathology, Helmholtz Zentrum, München, Germany.
Prof. P. Steenkamp, Bio-sciences, CSIR, South Africa.
Dr. D. Oelofse, Agriculture Research Council, South Africa.

 

 
CURRENT GROUP MEMBERS
NAME​RESEARCH AREA
POSTDOCTORAL FELLOW

Arnaud Djami-Tchatchou

miRNAs operative in the response of Arabidopsis thaliana to bacterial LPS.

PhD STUDENTS

Fidele Tugizimana

Metabolomics:

Lerato Matsaunyane (ARC)

Transcriptomics:  Genomic and transcriptomic analysis of transgenic potato.
MSc STUDENTS

Tarryn Finnegan

Metabolomics: Profiling the metabolic response of Arabidopsis thaliana cells in response to LPS.

John Sherwood

Transcriptomics:  Transcriptional profiling of genes up-regulated in Arabidopsis following elicitation with ergosterol using ACP-DDRT-PCR.

Maureen Baloyi

Proteomics:  Microdomains and their role in MAMP perception and defence responses in Arabidopsis thaliana.

Robyn Klemptner

Proteomics: Comparative enrichment of phosphopeptides from A.thaliana using traditional and novel dendrimer-based technologies.

Cornelius Vilakazi

Proteomics and Lipidomics: Proteomic and lipid analysis of detergent-resistant microdomains following ergosterol elicitation in Arabidopsis thaliana.

Katlego Riet

Metabolomics: Phytohormone profiling in specific plant : microbe interactions.

Msizi Mhlongo

Metabolomics: Metabolic profiling of induced changes in plant metabolism in response to priming agents.
HONS STUDENTS

Efficient Ncube

Metabolomics: Sesquiterpenoid phytoalexins in Centella asiatica.

Samantha T

hobela

Metabolomics: Profiling the response of Arabidopsis thaliana to azelaic acid and pipecolic acid.

Nikita Da Camara

Proteomics: Proteome analysis of isonitrosoacetophenone-treated plant systems.

Thembisile Khoza

Lipidomics: Lipid analysis of detergent-resistant membrane domains in A. thaliana, and their participation in MAMP perception and defense responses.

PREVIOUS POSTGRADUATE STUDENTS:
PhD STUDENTS 
2002 – L.A. PiaterIdentification and characterisation of mitogen activated protein kinases in leaf tissue of Nicotiana tabacum in response to elicitation by lipopolysaccharides.          
2003 – D. Oelofse

 Molecular strategies towards anthracnose resistance in lupin. (co-supervisor)
er

 
Differential proteomic analysis of lipopolysaccharide-responsive proteins in Nicotiana tabacum
2009 – N.M. SanabriaMolecular characterization of an LPS-induced S-domain receptor-like kinase (SRK) from Nicotiana tabacum.
2010 – S. PhillipsMolecular characterization of three defense-related genes in Gossypium hirsutum induced by elicitors from Verticillium dahliae. (co-supervisor)
2013 – N.E. MadalaMetabolic studies of biotransformation-related changes in plant metabolism in response to isonitrosoacetophenone treatment.
2013 – J.T. JamesManipulation of triterpene metabolic pathways in Centella asiatica by methyl jasmonate.

MSc STUDENTS
 
2000 – H.S. CoventryInduced defence responses in plants by bacterial lipopolysaccharides.
2002 – I.B. Gerber

 
Perception responses of Nicotiana tabacum cells towards bacterial lipopolysaccharides.
2002 – J.A. van der MerweCloning and characterization of the orfx gene from Nicotiana tabacum cells.
2003 – N.M. Sanabria

 
DDRT-PCR analysis of lipopolysasccharide induced gene expression in tobacco cells.
2003 – M. Zwiegelaar

 
DDRT-PCR analysis of defense-related gene induction in cotton, Gossypium hirsutum.
2004 – L. LiebenbergEvaluation of biologically active compounds in Coleonema album.
RouxPhosphoprotein changes in Arabidopsis thaliana cells in response to elicitation by lipopolysaccharides.
2006 – A. Jones    

 
The relationship between Hsp70 accumulation, cell death and ROS in suspension-cultured tobacco cells exposed to LPS from Ralstonia solanacearum.   (co-supervisor)
2007 – G. RautenbachThe low potential bioleaching of chalcopyrite using Ferroplasma JTC3. (co-supervisor)
2008 – N. E. MadalaDifferential display analysis of LPS induced defense gene expression in Arabidopsis thaliana.
2010 – C. BeetsInduction of camalexin in Arabisopsis thaliana in response to elicitation by lipopolysaccharides
2010 – D. le NouryRelease of volatile compounds by Arabidopsis thaliana cells in response to elicitation by lipopolysaccharides.
2012 – F. TugizimanaMetabolite profiling of defence-related secondary metabolites in tobacco cells, Nicotiana tabacum, in response to ergosterol, a steroid from fungal membranes.
2013 – S-A. NewIn silico analysis of cis elements and expression analysis of selected LPS-responsive RLKgenes from Arabidopsis thaliana
2013 – L.S. MgcinaComparison between conventional and quantum dot labeling strategies for LPS binding studies in Arabidopsis thaliana
2013 – M.P. MaakeDifferential gene expression in Nicotian tabacum cells in response to isonitrosoacetophenone.