Sandalwood, Tomato, Jatropha curcas

Major Pursuits in Plant Biotechnology

Santalol=Fragrance. Wait a minute…Santalol Who?
Except the structural information on the terpenoids responsible for the sandal oil’s properties, literally not much is known about its origin and transport within an intact plant system. Sesquiterpene synthases perform a crucial role in terpenoid biosynthesis.They hold the key to the sandal puzzle, which has remained largely unanswered for a long time.

Intraspecific Variations To be more specific

Intercontinental and isolated island plant populations are certain to show relatively greater genotypic variation because of the obvious physical barriers between them. Several island species of the genus Santalum have been analyzed at the molecular level by various groups in the past decade mainly to develop suitable conservation strategies. The Indian sandalwood, Santalum album is shown to possess a broad genetic base across the Deccan peninsula. It is more interesting to ask similar questions at the level of individuals within a finite population.
Some of our initial results emphasize the need to examine local variation, rather than global, to develop varieties that will be more resistant to spike disease, as well as synthesize more oil in less time.

To Fuel Biology

Biofuel is a renewable fuel which can be an alternative to or an addition to petroleum diesel with multitude of environmental benefits. Various oil seed plants suited to wide agro climatic conditions are being explored as the sources of future fuels, as the fossil fuels may soon be exhausted. Jatropha carcus is a promising energy crop with more than 35% seed oil that has an innate ability to be used in modern combustion engines. Jatropha is an environment friendly plant and grows luxuriously in the Indian subcontinent as a fence weed.
Commercially, the jatropha oil is trans esterified and used at 2:10 mixture with fossil fuels in the vehicular engines. At VMSRF we are aiming to molecularly alter the seed oil composition and generate elite jatropha oil, which can be used in the modern engines without any blending with petroleum fuel. Altering the seed oil composition will aid in achieving the desired density, dynamic viscosity, heat capacity, boiling point, and heat of combustion. The lower dynamic viscosity and higher heat of combustion is mainly attributed by medium and short chain fatty acids in the seed oil. Metabolic engineering of the fatty acid biosynthetic pathway to produce a greater amount of medium chain fatty acids is undertaken. Jatropha sets to fruiting in its 3rd year and seeds can be collected for as long as 50 years. It hence becomes imperative to develop molecular markers for identification of elite clones in the existing germplasm. Molecular markers are being developed for the high oil yielding Jatropha varieties to tap elite clones in juvenile stage and make the jatropha plantations economically more viable and farmer friendly.

The Shrewd Battle Grounds

“The Battle between my foe and his/her foe help’s me a lot to lead my life”.

The size doesn't matter.The tiniest of micro-organisms and the largest of mammals exploit this strategy. We are concerned with the battle between (prey) insects feeding on plants and their predators. In this situation plant calls upon those predators, giving cues by emitting specific blends of volatiles to identify the prey/pest. Through our experiments we are profiling the volatiles emitted by tomato plant when attacked by caterpillars of some of the most destructive insect species. These studies will pave the way forward to develop biological pest control measures, which have increasingly become more important in Integrated Pest Management Programs [IPMPs].