Current Research

Main areas of research

1. Analysis of genetic diversity and phylogeny in Calamus L. (Arecaceae) 

Calamus L. (rattan palm or cane, belongs to the family Arecaceae) is an important perennial and dioecious genus having profound economic importance. Rattans are found as wild and due to rapid degradation of natural habitats, and endemic nature of some species, these groups of plants are gradually heading towards endangerment and extinction. I am particularly interested (i) to develop molecular markers for Calamus sp., (ii) analyze genetic diversity in Calamus using SSR polymorphism and (ii) to analyze phylogenetic relationships in the genus using markers from nrDNA or cpDNA regions.

2. Analysis of genetic variability, association mapping and microRNA diversity of wild cardamom populations

The origin of cardamom is believed to be in the rain forests of the Western Ghats in South India, where presumably rich and untapped genetic diversity of the cardamom resides. In this background, a study aimed to collect and evaluate small cardamom populations to identify promising genotypes with respect to genetic variability and better agronomic/resistance traits has been initiated.

It is also plan to apply association mapping to identify genes associated with complex traits in wild cardamom. This information would provide valuable insight about the evolution of the cardamom genome and could be applied to improve crop development or breeding programs

Extensive studies of miRNAs have been done in many plant species including crop plants. However, such studies in wild relatives of the crop plants are lacking which are very important owing to the potential existence untapped genetic diversity and disease resistance characteristics in these plants. On this line, a work on the identification and characterization of miRNAs from wild cardamom has been initiated recently.

3. Estimation of genetic diversity in Centella asiatica and regulation of secondary metabolite production using miRNAs

The contents of biologically active principles (molecules) in medicinal plants vary significantly in their wild populations. Elite accessions (lines) of medicinal plants provide high contents of active principles from limited plant biomass for commercial purposes. Chemical/genetic screening of several wild accessions of Centella asiatica from various locations in Western Ghats for their biologically active principles could lead to the discovery of their elite lines.

Recent advances in molecular biology and enzymology through post-transcriptional gene silencing of medicinal plants suggest that this system can be used to reduce or eliminate levels of undesirable compounds, flux in the pathway leading to such compounds can be reduced or redirected to competing pathways. Particular steps in the pathway leading to such undesirable compounds can be blocked by antisense, cosuppression or RNAi methods. In this context, I am interested to identify the possible relation between alkaloid biosynthesis and miRNA regulation in C. asiatica, an important medicinal plant. The investigation on the regulation of miRNA in the alkaloid biosynthesis pathways in C. asiatica can pave way to effective tuning of the plant for maximum yield of the compounds.

Other research areas

I am also involved in research projects on

  • Analysis of plant-pollinator interactions using molecular markers
  • Estimation of genetic diversity in Bacopa monnieri

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