Associate Professor Suhail Rafudeen

Head of Department | Associate Professor

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My main research aim is to understand the molecular mechanisms of abiotic and biotic stress responses in plants and biotechnological improvement of crop plants important to Africa.
With respect to abiotic stress, my primary focus is plant response to drought using indigenous desiccation-tolerant resurrection plants as model systems. Resurrection plants can tolerate extreme water loss which makes them ideal systems to study drought stress tolerance. I link this research to cereal crops such as maize and teff which are important food crops in Africa. I use the proteomic approach complemented with molecular biology to explore and investigate the changes in the resurrection and crop plants in response to drought. 

I have an interest in plant biotic stress responses to plant viruses and fungal pathogens. I have recently initiated research into Fusarium verticillioides infection of maize which results in Fusarium ear rot disease. We have completed an RNA-seq study of Fusarium infection of an African maize line with the aim of finding genes and promoter elements that can be used to improve maize defense against this disease. We have also examined genetic diversity and distribution of Aspergillus flavus isolates in different Kenyan counties with the aim of finding the reasons for the frequent cases of aflatotoxin poisoning in certain counties. This has been coupled with finding a biocontrol strategy to limit toxigenic A. flavus infection.