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1.  Differential Network Analysis Reveals Evolutionary Complexity in Secondary Metabolism of Rauvolfia serpentina over Catharanthus roseus 
Comparative co-expression analysis of multiple species using high-throughput data is an integrative approach to determine the uniformity as well as diversification in biological processes. Rauvolfia serpentina and Catharanthus roseus, both members of Apocyanacae family, are reported to have remedial properties against multiple diseases. Despite of sharing upstream of terpenoid indole alkaloid pathway, there is significant diversity in tissue-specific synthesis and accumulation of specialized metabolites in these plants. This led us to implement comparative co-expression network analysis to investigate the modules and genes responsible for differential tissue-specific expression as well as species-specific synthesis of metabolites. Toward these goals differential network analysis was implemented to identify candidate genes responsible for diversification of metabolites profile. Three genes were identified with significant difference in connectivity leading to differential regulatory behavior between these plants. These genes may be responsible for diversification of secondary metabolism, and thereby for species-specific metabolite synthesis. The network robustness of R. serpentina, determined based on topological properties, was also complemented by comparison of gene-metabolite networks of both plants, and may have evolved to have complex metabolic mechanisms as compared to C. roseus under the influence of various stimuli. This study reveals evolution of complexity in secondary metabolism of R. serpentina, and key genes that contribute toward diversification of specific metabolites.
PMCID: PMC4988974  PMID: 27588023
comparative network analysis; plant systems biology; secondary metabolism and enzymes; Rauvolfia serpentina; Catharanthus roseus
2.  Crop-ecology and nutritional variability influence growth and secondary metabolites of Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni 
BMC Plant Biology  2015;15:67.
Plant nutrition and climatic conditions play important roles on the growth and secondary metabolites of stevia (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni); however, the nutritional dose is strongly governed by the soil properties and climatic conditions of the growing region. In northern India, the interactive effects of crop ecology and plant nutrition on yield and secondary metabolites of stevia are not yet properly understood. Thus, a field experiment comprising three levels of nitrogen, two levels of phosphorus and three levels of potassium was conducted at three locations to ascertain whether the spatial and nutritional variability would dominate the leaf yield and secondary metabolites profile of stevia.
Principal component analysis (PCA) indicates that the applications of 90 kg N, 40 kg P2O5 and 40 kg K2O ha−1 are the best nutritional conditions in terms of dry leaf yield for CSIR-IHBT (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research- Institute Himalayan Bioresource Technology) and RHRS (Regional Horticultural Research Station) conditions. The spatial variability also exerted considerable effect on the leaf yield and stevioside content in leaves. Among the three locations, CSIR-IHBT was found most suitable in case of dry leaf yield and secondary metabolites accumulation in leaves.
The results suggest that dry leaf yield and accumulation of stevioside are controlled by the environmental factors and agronomic management; however, the accumulation of rebaudioside-A (Reb-A) is not much influenced by these two factors. Thus, leaf yield and secondary metabolite profiles of stevia can be improved through the selection of appropriate growing locations and proper nutrient management.
PMCID: PMC4351930  PMID: 25849326
Stevia rebaudiana; Secondary metabolite; Crop ecology; Plant nutrition; Spatial variability; Cytokinin
3.  Genetic diversity of high-elevation populations of an endangered medicinal plant 
AoB Plants  2014;7:plu076.
Despite its wide distribution across the entire Himalayan range, the current status of Podophyllum hexandrum, a highly important anti-cancerous herb, remains endangered. Genetic diversity characterization of 24 populations comprising of 209 individuals representing the whole of the Indian Himalayas revealed that regardless of geographic location, all of the populations are intermixed and are composed broadly of two types of genetic populations. Our findings also suggested that these populations have evolved well in response to the environment. This study will help in the formulation of conservation programs for P. hexandrum populations in this region.
Intraspecific genetic variation in natural populations governs their potential to overcome challenging ecological and environmental conditions. In addition, knowledge of this variation is critical for the conservation and management of endangered plant taxa. Found in the Himalayas, Podophyllum hexandrum is an endangered high-elevation plant species that has great medicinal importance. Here we report on the genetic diversity analysis of 24 P. hexandrum populations (209 individuals), representing the whole of the Indian Himalayas. In the present study, seven amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) primer pairs generated 1677 fragments, of which 866 were found to be polymorphic. Neighbour joining clustering, principal coordinate analysis and STRUCTURE analysis clustered 209 individuals from 24 populations of the Indian Himalayan mountains into two major groups with a significant amount of gene flow (Nm = 2.13) and moderate genetic differentiation Fst(0.196), G′st(0.20). This suggests that, regardless of geographical location, all of the populations from the Indian Himalayas are intermixed and are composed broadly of two types of genetic populations. High variance partitioned within populations (80 %) suggests that most of the diversity is restricted to the within-population level. These results suggest two possibilities about the ancient population structure of P. hexandrum: either all of the populations in the geographical region of the Indian Himalayas are remnants of a once-widespread ancient population, or they originated from two types of genetic populations, which coexisted a long time ago, but subsequently separated as a result of long-distance dispersal and natural selection. High variance partitioned within the populations indicates that these populations have evolved in response to their respective environments over time, but low levels of heterozygosity suggest the presence of historical population bottlenecks.
PMCID: PMC4287688  PMID: 25416728
AMOVA; amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP); Baker's rule; genetic structure; Indian Himalayas; Podophyllum hexandrum; self-pollination.
4.  Simultaneous Over-Expression of PaSOD and RaAPX in Transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana Confers Cold Stress Tolerance through Increase in Vascular Lignifications 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110302.
Antioxidant enzymes play a significant role in eliminating toxic levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), generated during stress from living cells. In the present study, two different antioxidant enzymes namely copper-zinc superoxide dismutase derived from Potentilla astrisanguinea (PaSOD) and ascorbate peroxidase (RaAPX) from Rheum austral both of which are high altitude cold niche area plants of Himalaya were cloned and simultaneously over-expressed in Arabidopsis thaliana to alleviate cold stress. It was found that the transgenic plants over-expressing both the genes were more tolerant to cold stress than either of the single gene expressing transgenic plants during growth and development. In both single (PaSOD, RaAPX) and double (PaSOD + RaAPX) transgenic plants higher levels of total antioxidant enzyme activities, chlorophyll content, total soluble sugars, proline content and lower levels of ROS, ion leakage were recorded when compared to the WT during cold stress (4°C), besides increase in yield. In the present study, Confocal and SEM analysis in conjunction with qPCR data on the expression pattern of lignin biosynthetic pathway genes revealed that the cold stress tolerance of the transgenic plants might be because of the peroxide induced up-regulation of lignin by antioxidant genes mediated triggering.
PMCID: PMC4201527  PMID: 25330211
5.  Genome-Wide Organization and Expression Profiling of the NAC Transcription Factor Family in Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) 
NAC [no apical meristem (NAM), Arabidopsis thaliana transcription activation factor [ATAF1/2] and cup-shaped cotyledon (CUC2)] proteins belong to one of the largest plant-specific transcription factor (TF) families and play important roles in plant development processes, response to biotic and abiotic cues and hormone signalling. Our genome-wide analysis identified 110 StNAC genes in potato encoding for 136 proteins, including 14 membrane-bound TFs. The physical map positions of StNAC genes on 12 potato chromosomes were non-random, and 40 genes were found to be distributed in 16 clusters. The StNAC proteins were phylogenetically clustered into 12 subgroups. Phylogenetic analysis of StNACs along with their Arabidopsis and rice counterparts divided these proteins into 18 subgroups. Our comparative analysis has also identified 36 putative TNAC proteins, which appear to be restricted to Solanaceae family. In silico expression analysis, using Illumina RNA-seq transcriptome data, revealed tissue-specific, biotic, abiotic stress and hormone-responsive expression profile of StNAC genes. Several StNAC genes, including StNAC072 and StNAC101that are orthologs of known stress-responsive Arabidopsis RESPONSIVE TO DEHYDRATION 26 (RD26) were identified as highly abiotic stress responsive. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis largely corroborated the expression profile of StNAC genes as revealed by the RNA-seq data. Taken together, this analysis indicates towards putative functions of several StNAC TFs, which will provide blue-print for their functional characterization and utilization in potato improvement.
PMCID: PMC3738166  PMID: 23649897
abiotic stress; genome-wide analysis; Illumina RNA-seq; NAC transcription factor; potato
6.  Braving the attitude of altitude: Caragana jubata at work in cold desert of Himalaya 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:1022.
The present work was conducted to understand the basis of adaptation in Caragana jubata in its niche environment at high altitude cold desert of Himalaya. Molecular data showed predominance of genes encoding chaperones and those involved in growth and development at low temperature (LT), a major cue operative at high altitude. Importantly, these genes expressed in C. jubata in its natural habitat. Their homologues in Arabidopsis thaliana, Oryza sativa, and Glycine max did not exhibit similar trend of gene expression at LT. Constitutive expression and a quick up-regulation of the above genes suggested the ability of C. jubata to adjust its cellular machinery to maintain growth and development in its niche. This was reflected in LT50 (the temperature at which 50% injury occurred) and LT mediated photosynthetic acclimatory response. Such molecular and physiological plasticity enables C. jubata to thrive in the high altitude cold desert of Himalayas.
PMCID: PMC3535672  PMID: 23289064
7.  Engineering a thermo-stable superoxide dismutase functional at sub-zero to >50°C, which also tolerates autoclaving 
Scientific Reports  2012;2:387.
Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is a critical enzyme associated with controlling oxygen toxicity arising out of oxidative stress in any living system. A hyper-thermostable SOD isolated from a polyextremophile higher plant Potentilla atrosanguinea Lodd. var. argyrophylla (Wall. ex Lehm.) was engineered by mutation of a single amino acid that enhanced the thermostability of the enzyme to twofold. The engineered enzyme was functional from sub-zero temperature to >50°C, tolerated autoclaving (heating at 121°C, at a pressure of 1.1 kg per square cm for 20 min) and was resistant to proteolysis. The present work is the first example to enhance the thermostability of a hyper-thermostable protein and has potential to application to other proteins for enhancing thermostability.
PMCID: PMC3339387  PMID: 22548128
8.  De novo sequencing and characterization of Picrorhiza kurrooa transcriptome at two temperatures showed major transcriptome adjustments 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:126.
Picrorhiza kurrooa Royle ex Benth. is an endangered plant species of medicinal importance. The medicinal property is attributed to monoterpenoids picroside I and II, which are modulated by temperature. The transcriptome information of this species is limited with the availability of few hundreds of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) in the public databases. In order to gain insight into temperature mediated molecular changes, high throughput de novo transcriptome sequencing and analyses were carried out at 15°C and 25°C, the temperatures known to modulate picrosides content.
Using paired-end (PE) Illumina sequencing technology, a total of 20,593,412 and 44,229,272 PE reads were obtained after quality filtering for 15°C and 25°C, respectively. Available (e.g., De-Bruijn/Eulerian graph) and in-house developed bioinformatics tools were used for assembly and annotation of transcriptome. A total of 74,336 assembled transcript sequences were obtained, with an average coverage of 76.6 and average length of 439.5. Guanine-cytosine (GC) content was observed to be 44.6%, while the transcriptome exhibited abundance of trinucleotide simple sequence repeat (SSR; 45.63%) markers.
Large scale expression profiling through "read per exon kilobase per million (RPKM)", showed changes in several biological processes and metabolic pathways including cytochrome P450s (CYPs), UDP-glycosyltransferases (UGTs) and those associated with picrosides biosynthesis. RPKM data were validated by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction using a set of 19 genes, wherein 11 genes behaved in accordance with the two expression methods.
Study generated transcriptome of P. kurrooa at two different temperatures. Large scale expression profiling through RPKM showed major transcriptome changes in response to temperature reflecting alterations in major biological processes and metabolic pathways, and provided insight of GC content and SSR markers. Analysis also identified putative CYPs and UGTs that could help in discovering the hitherto unknown genes associated with picrosides biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC3378455  PMID: 22462805
Mevalonate; Gene expression; 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate; Next generation sequencing; Phenylpropanoid; Picrorhiza kurrooa; Picrosides; Transcriptome
9.  Post-Transcriptional Silencing of Flavonol Synthase mRNA in Tobacco Leads to Fruits with Arrested Seed Set 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28315.
Flavonoids are synthesized by phenylpropanoid pathway. They are known to participate in large number of physiological and biochemical processes in plants. Parthenocarpy and male sterility has earlier been reported by silencing chalcone synthase (CHS) encoding gene. Silencing of CHS has blocked the synthesis of most of useful flavonoids including flavan-3-ols and flavonols. Also, these studies could not identify whether parthenocarpy/male sterility were due to lack of flavan-3-ols or flavonols or both. Flavonol synthase (FLS) is an important enzyme of flavonoid pathway that catalyzes the formation of flavonols. In this article, we propose a novel strategy towards the generation of seedless or less-seeded fruits by downregulation of flavonol biosynthesis in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum cv Xanthi) through post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) of FLS encoding mRNA. The FLS silenced lines were observed for 20-80% reduction in FLS encoding gene expression and 25–93% reduction in flavonol (quercetin) content. Interestingly, these FLS silenced tobacco lines also showed reduction in their anthocyanidins content. While the content of flavan-3-ols (catechin, epi-catechin and epi-gallocatechin) was found to be increased in FLS silenced lines. The delayed flowering in FLS silenced lines could be due to decrease in level of indole acetic acid (IAA) at apical region of their shoots. Furthermore, the pollen germination was hampered and pollens were unable to produce functional pollen tube in FLS silenced tobacco lines. Pods of FLS silenced lines contained significantly less number of seeds. The in vitro and in vivo studies where 1 µM quercetin was supplied to germination media, documented the restoration of normal pollen germination and pollen tube growth. This finding identified the role of flavonols particularly quercetin in pollen germination as well as in the regulation of plant fertility. Results also suggest a novel approach towards generation of seedless/less-seeded fruits via PTGS of FLS encoding gene in plants.
PMCID: PMC3228754  PMID: 22145036
10.  Chemical modification of L-glutamine to alpha-amino glutarimide on autoclaving facilitates Agrobacterium infection of host and non-host plants: A new use of a known compound 
BMC Chemical Biology  2011;11:1.
Accidental autoclaving of L-glutamine was found to facilitate the Agrobacterium infection of a non host plant like tea in an earlier study. In the present communication, we elucidate the structural changes in L-glutamine due to autoclaving and also confirm the role of heat transformed L-glutamine in Agrobacterium mediated genetic transformation of host/non host plants.
When autoclaved at 121°C and 15 psi for 20 or 40 min, L-glutamine was structurally modified into 5-oxo proline and 3-amino glutarimide (α-amino glutarimide), respectively. Of the two autoclaved products, only α-amino glutarimide facilitated Agrobacterium infection of a number of resistant to susceptible plants. However, the compound did not have any vir gene inducing property.
We report a one pot autoclave process for the synthesis of 5-oxo proline and α-amino glutarimide from L-glutamine. Xenobiotic detoxifying property of α-amino glutarimide is also proposed.
PMCID: PMC3130638  PMID: 21624145
11.  Expression of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase, p-hydroxybenzoate-m-geranyltransferase and genes of phenylpropanoid pathway exhibits positive correlation with shikonins content in arnebia [Arnebia euchroma (Royle) Johnston] 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:88.
Geranyl pyrophosphate (GPP) and p-hydroxybenzoate (PHB) are the basic precursors involved in shikonins biosynthesis. GPP is derived from mevalonate (MVA) and/or 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway(s), depending upon the metabolite and the plant system under consideration. PHB, however, is synthesized by only phenylpropanoid (PP) pathway. GPP and PHB are central moieties to yield shikonins through the synthesis of m-geranyl-p-hydroxybenzoate (GHB). Enzyme p-hydroxybenzoate-m-geranyltransferase (PGT) catalyses the coupling of GPP and PHB to yield GHB.
The present research was carried out in shikonins yielding plant arnebia [Arnebia euchroma (Royle) Johnston], wherein no molecular work has been reported so far. The objective of the work was to identify the preferred GPP synthesizing pathway for shikonins biosynthesis, and to determine the regulatory genes involved in the biosynthesis of GPP, PHB and GHB.
A cell suspension culture-based, low and high shikonins production systems were developed to facilitate pathway identification and finding the regulatory gene. Studies with mevinolin and fosmidomycin, inhibitors of MVA and MEP pathway, respectively suggested MVA as a preferred route of GPP supply for shikonins biosynthesis in arnebia. Accordingly, genes of MVA pathway (eight genes), PP pathway (three genes), and GHB biosynthesis were cloned. Expression studies showed down-regulation of all the genes in response to mevinolin treatment, whereas gene expression was not influenced by fosmidomycin. Expression of all the twelve genes vis-à-vis shikonins content in low and high shikonins production system, over a period of twelve days at frequent intervals, identified critical genes of shikonins biosynthesis in arnebia.
A positive correlation between shikonins content and expression of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (AeHMGR) and AePGT suggested critical role played by these genes in shikonins biosynthesis. Higher expression of genes of PP pathway was a general feature for higher shikonins biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC3002352  PMID: 21092138
12.  Identification, characterization and utilization of unigene derived microsatellite markers in tea (Camellia sinensis L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:53.
Despite great advances in genomic technology observed in several crop species, the availability of molecular tools such as microsatellite markers has been limited in tea (Camellia sinensis L.). The development of microsatellite markers will have a major impact on genetic analysis, gene mapping and marker assisted breeding. Unigene derived microsatellite (UGMS) markers identified from publicly available sequence database have the advantage of assaying variation in the expressed component of the genome with unique identity and position. Therefore, they can serve as efficient and cost effective alternative markers in such species.
Considering the multiple advantages of UGMS markers, 1,223 unigenes were predicted from 2,181 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) of tea (Camellia sinensis L.). A total of 109 (8.9%) unigenes containing 120 SSRs were identified. SSR abundance was one in every 3.55 kb of EST sequences. The microsatellites mainly comprised of di (50.8%), tri (30.8%), tetra (6.6%), penta (7.5%) and few hexa (4.1%) nucleotide repeats. Among the dinucleotide repeats, (GA)n.(TC)n were most abundant (83.6%). Ninety six primer pairs could be designed form 83.5% of SSR containing unigenes. Of these, 61 (63.5%) primer pairs were experimentally validated and used to investigate the genetic diversity among the 34 accessions of different Camellia spp. Fifty one primer pairs (83.6%) were successfully cross transferred to the related species at various levels. Functional annotation of the unigenes containing SSRs was done through gene ontology (GO) characterization. Thirty six (60%) of them revealed significant sequence similarity with the known/putative proteins of Arabidopsis thaliana. Polymorphism information content (PIC) ranged from 0.018 to 0.972 with a mean value of 0.497. The average heterozygosity expected (HE) and observed (Ho) obtained was 0.654 and 0.413 respectively, thereby suggesting highly heterogeneous nature of tea. Further, test for IAM and SMM models for the UGMS loci showed excess heterozygosity and did not show any bottleneck operating in the tea population.
UGMS markers identified and characterized in this study provided insight about the abundance and distribution of SSR in the expressed genome of C. sinensis. The identification and validation of 61 new UGMS markers will not only help in intra and inter specific genetic diversity assessment but also be enriching limited microsatellite markers resource in tea. Further, the use of these markers would reduce the cost and facilitate the gene mapping and marker-aided selection in tea. Since, 36 of these UGMS markers correspond to the Arabidopsis protein sequence data with known functions will offer the opportunity to investigate the consequences of SSR polymorphism on gene functions.
PMCID: PMC2693106  PMID: 19426565

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