Nutritional Improvement of Crops


Research Interests

Nutritive value of staple crops, Antioxidant-rich and Low phytate crops, Micronutrient Malnutrition, Human nutrition, Herbicide tolerant crops, Climate smart and high-yielding crops, Nutrient use efficiency, Genome editing by CRISPR-Cas9/dCas9/C2c2 and Cpf1/2 technology.

Description of Research

Globally, more people are affected by micronutrient malnutrition than by AIDS, HIV and malaria combined, striking a third of the globe, especially women and pre-schoolers. Those afflicted rely on monotonous consumption of staple crops with no or low supplementation with meat or dairy products for their sustenance. Phytic acid (PA) content” in cereal and legume seeds having high affinity for positively charged dietary micronutrients and forms insoluble micronutrient-phytate complexes not assimilated by human gut causing micronutrient deficiencies and thereby rendering bio-fortification of staple foods futile. Single best strategy is to remove PA in cereal and legume seeds consumed globally by transgenic and CRISPR-Cas9/Cpf1/2 genome editing technology. We propose to design phytase-rich tomatoes, phytate-free cereals and legumes for alleviating global micronutrient malnutrition.

Rice grain quality is crucial economic trait for consumers as it’s one of the staple food crops, worldwide. Low levels of iron & zinc in rice grains cause nutritional deficiency related disorders, predominantly anaemia, especially in pregnant women and kids (< 5y) that rely on cereal-based diets. Improved rice lines with enhanced iron (Fe) content and low cadmium (Cd) in grains for improvised micronutrient quality. Generation of constructs and vectors for expression of CRISPR-Cas9/Cpf1 based genome editing in rice that may be used for other monocots or cereal crops.

Vigna umbellata (Thunb.), called rice bean, is a hotspot for biological diversity – an economically important crop in Asia. Underutilized forage legume which has no breeding programme for its improvisation. Identified as having high nutritional potential. Whole genome of V. umbellata (Ricebean) has been sequenced and submitted to NCBI Sequence Read Archive (SRP132447). Genes of Chromosomal and Non-Chromosomal regions have been identified by aligning with Closely related and Distantly related gene models. Improving the traits like unpalatability, late flowering and indeterminacy in rice bean crop utilizing CRISPR-Cas9/Cpf1/2 genome editing technology

Antioxidants and ROS play a crucial role in fruit ripening and maturation. Our vision of efficient scavenging of ROS during late maturation and postharvest stages of tomato fruits by over expression of the ascorbate-glutathione pathway genes shall enhance their shelf life as well as their antioxidant value and reduce the postharvest losses. In addition, this biotechnological approach may be extrapolated to other fruits and vegetables.

Weeds are the most serious biological constraint to upland rice production. Manual weed control over large areas is not feasible from the point of labour supply and monetary costs. Genetic engineering of herbicide resistant crop plants allow the application of non-selective herbicide to virtually kill all kinds of weeds without injuring crop plant. There is urgent need to develop crop plants simultaneously resistant to more than one herbicide with different mode of action to effectively control weed infestation by pre- as well as post-emergent herbicide application. We propose to modify the target site of EPSPS and ALS rice genes via CRISPR-Cas9 technology to confer resistance to herbicides and develop transgenic rice plants tolerant to non-selective herbicides. The same technology shall be extrapolated to other crops that face the weed constraint.

The Group has recently perfected the genotype-independent regeneration of, and transformation protocols for, rice cultivars (Kaul et al., Meth Mol Biol, 2021) and contributed to the understanding the role of the ascorbate-glutathione pathway in tolerance to drought and salinity stresses (Raja et al., Plant Cell Rep, 2021).

Nutritional Improvement of Crops Figure
Employing transgenic and CRISPR-Cas9/Cpf1/dCas9/C2c2 genome editing technologies for reducing phytic acid content (for enhanced bioavailability of micronutrients), developing herbicide resistance, enhancing grain Iron and Zinc content and improving the antioxidant levels in cereal, legumes and vegetable crops

Recent Publications

Kaul, T., Easwaran, M., T. Arulprakash, Jain, R., Raman, N.M., Bharti, J. 2019. Probing the effect of a plus 1bp frameshift mutation in protein-DNA interface of domestication gene, NAMB1, in wheat. J Biomol Struct Dynam In press

Mekonnen, T., Hailesclassic, T., Kaul, T., Sharma, M., Geleta, B., Tesfaye, K. 2019. Molecular screening of Zymoseptoria tritici resistance genes in wheat (Triticum aestivum L) using tightly linked simple sequence repeat markers. Eur J Plant Pathol Link to article

Kaul, T., Raman, N.M., Easwaran, M., T. Arulprakash, Verma, R., Sony, S.K., Sathelly, K.M., Kaul, R., Yadava, P., Agrawal, P.K. 2019. Data Mining by Pluralistic Approach on CRISPR Gene Editing in Plants. Front Plant Sci 09 Link to article

Reddy, M.K., Singh, B.N., Manna, M., Kaul, T. 2018. Molecular characterization of pea DNA gyrase-A reveals dual localization of protein in plastid and mitochondria. J Plant Biochem Biotechnol PubMed link

Agarwal, A., Yadava, P., Kumar, K., Singh, I., Kaul, T., Pattanayak, A., Agrawal, P.K. 2018. Insights into maize genome editing via CRISPR/Cas9. Physiol Mol Biol Plants 24,175-183. DOI:10.1007/s12298-017-0502-3. PubMed link

Yadava, P., Abhishek, A., Singh, R., Singh, I., Kaul, T., Pattanayak, A., Agrawal, P.K. 2017. Advances in Maize Transformation Technologies and Development of Transgenic Maize. Front Plant Sci. 7:1949. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2016.01949. PubMed PMID: 28111576; PubMed Central PMCID:PMC5216042 PubMed link