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Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute

Genomics and Metabolomics of wild plant species

The Indian Sub-continent, in terms of plant diversity and genetic variability, is one of the distinctive floristic regions designated in phytogeography. Although Kerala is biodiversity rich with profusion of flora and more than 40% endemicity recorded in the Southern summits of the Western Ghats, concerted effort to document this biodiversity at the chemical and molecular level has not been realized so far. We have taken major initiative to document this rich diversity of RET and endemic wild species that includes MAPs, wild relative of crop plants and non-wood forest produce such as Rattan palms of southern Western Ghats using molecular marker techniques.

DNA barcoding of plant species is an emerging field to address species ambiguity among various plant groups using a short DNA sequence complementary to a region preferably the coding sequence of the nuclear or plastid genome. Barcoding of plant species like Adathoda and Piper is being carried out to supplement current taxonomic identification of these species. To realize the biosynthetic potential of medicinal and aromatic plants, it is imperative to understand the metabolome along with the biochemical pathways and subsequent identification, characterization and expression of the gene(s) involved in the synthesis of specific natural products. Elucidation of regulatory steps involved in the biosynthesis thereby will help engineer pathways to increase the concentration of desired compound or to lower the concentration of undesired compound or to introduce novel gene(s) into specific steps for the conversion of precursor molecule to the product of interest. PCR based approach coupled with transcription profiling techniques are used for the isolation and characterization of regulatory genes leading to the biosynthesis of plant specific high value compounds. Banana is a staple food only next to rice, wheat and maize in the tropical and sub-tropical regions and Kerala has number of different landraces and cultivars domesticated over centuries that meet high standards of qualitative and quantitative traits.

However, unfortunately most of these hybrids are susceptible to various pathogenic attacks and hence prone to epidemics. As secondary gene pool constitutes a major genomic resource for identification of resistance traits, we are now screening the wild gene pool of Musa collected from the southern Western Ghats. Investigations are being carried out to identify potential fungal disease resistance donor in the wild germplasm using RGCs. The study proposes isolation and molecular characterization of resistance gene candidates (RGCs) from Musa species. The resulting RGCs will be used for isolation of putative R-genes from the resistant wild germplasm.

 

Major Research Activities

Current area of research 

  • Genetic diversity analysis in MAPs and wild relatives of crop plants across natural populations using molecular markers like ISSR and microsatellites
  • Species identification using DNA barcoding
  • Secondary metabolite pathway engineering in medicinal plants to regulate the synthesis of high value biomolecules
  • Isolation and characterization of disease resistance genes (R genes) from wild Musa accessions against Fusarium wilt disease

Research collaborations

Dr R. Uma Shaanker, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore
Dr D. Narasimhan, Madras Christian College, Chennai
Dr Amit Aggarwal, Natural Remedies Pvt Ltd., Bangalore

Ongoing R & D Projects 

  1. Biotechnological interventions for conservation and utilization of forest resources- Prospecting for Corosolic acid and other bioactive compounds from Lagerstroemia speciosa (L.) Pers
  2. Conservation and restoration of two endemic and critically endangered tree species (Syzygium gambleanum Rathakr. & Chithra and Syzygium rama-varmae (bourd.) Chithra from Agastyamalai biosphere reserve through conventional and non-conventional propagation
  3. Conservation of Vanda thwaitisii, V. wightii, and Eulophia cullenii three endangered orchids of Western Ghats through micropropagation and restoration with tribal participation

 

Research Team

Dr. Padmesh P
Senior Scientist
Biotechnology and Bioinformatics Division
Phone:(O)0472-2869226 (M)09446404397
Fax: 91(0) 472 – 2869646
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Dr. K.K. Sabu
Senior Scientist
Biotechnology and Bioinformatics Division
Phone:(O)0472-2869226
Fax: 91(0) 472 – 2869646
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Research Students

Vineesh P.S : Ph.D student (JRF)

The present day desert bananas are mostly sterile triploids originated from the wild diploids viz. M. accuminata Colla and M. balbisiana Colla. Kerala has number of different landraces and cultivars domesticated over centuries that meet high standards of qualitative and quantitative traits. However, unfortunately most of these hybrids are susceptible to various pathogenic attacks and hence prone to epidemics. Mr. Vineesh is investigating the isolation and characterization of R genes from wild Musa accessions against the Fusarium pathogen.

K. Manikantan Menon : Ph.D student (JRF)

Artemisinin based combination therapy (ACT) has become the most accepted therapy for the containment of Malaria disease. However, due to its increased market demand and low yield in the plant (0.01 -0.8%), there is great interest in increasing its production. Mr Manikantan is interested to elucidate the pathway leading to the conversion of artemisinic acid to artemisinin using molecular techniques so that metabolite pathway engineering can be applied for enhanced production of artemisinin.

Sajan J.S: Ph.D student (JRF)

Functional regulation of neurotransmitters plays key role in the secretion and release of insulin and cytokines involved in the antidiabetic and antiinflamatory conditions. For instance, the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) are a group of nuclear receptor proteins that function as transcription factors in the expression of genes that regulates cellular differentiation, development, metabolism (carbohydrate, lipid, protein), and tumorogenesis in higher organisms. Mr Sajan is investigating the altered peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) gene expression during the above clinical conditions using supplements of corosolic acid, a pentacyclic triterpene from Lagerstroemia speciosa.

Akshaya Vijayan : Ph.D student (UGC-JRF)

Metabolite pathway engineering in plants to increase the content of desired secondary compound or to lower the concentration of undesired compounds or modulation of precursor pool etc can be done only if the biosynthetic pathway is elucidated with known regulatory step(s). Specific step(s) in the terpenoid pathway that lead to the production of corosolic acid is the topic of research pursued by Ms Akshaya Vijayan.

K.S Jayakumar : JRF (DBT project)

Lagerstroemia speciosa is a deciduous or semi-deciduous small to medium-sized tree distributed in the Western Ghats region. Mr Jayakumar is developing microsatellite markers for assessment of genetic diversity in the natural populations. Based on the data on DNA polymorphism, geographic differentiation of the populations will be assessed and attempt will be made to identify distinct genetic populations and hot-spots of genetic diversity of the species.

                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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