I am pursuing research in different areas of plant functional and comparative genomics. I mostly use tropical bamboos and Brassicas as systems to address few yet unresolved mysteries of plant Biology. If successful, genes/pathways identified by these studies might be utilized in future for crop improvements. My specific research topics are:
(1) Identification of genes controlling unique flowering times in tree bamboos
(2) Understanding the role of strigolactones in plant’s response to osmotic stresses
(3) Role of gene duplication on the evolution of novel plants stress genes in Brassicaceae
(4) Functional genomics of fiber development in tree bamboo
B.Sc. (Hons.) in Botany, University of Kalyani (1994-1997)
M.Sc. in Botany, University of Kalyani (1997-1999)
Ph.D in Life Science, Jadavpur University/Bose Institute (2000-2005), Supervisor: Prof. Amita Pal
National Research Council Associate, US Environmental Protection Agency, Oregon, USA (2005-2008), Mentor: Dr. Dave Olszyk
National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, Virginia Tech, USA (2008-2009), Mentor: Dr. Jim Westwood
Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Helmholtz Zentrum, Munich, Germany (2009-2012), Mentor: Dr. Anton R. Schäffner
I obtained my B.Sc and M.Sc degrees in Botany from University of Kalyani, India. After that I had joined the laboratory of Prof. Amita Pal, Bose Institute, Kolkata to work on bamboo genetic diversity and molecular marker development. After completion of my Ph.D in 2005, I had received the prestigious US National Research Council Associateship award to work at US-Environmental Protection Agency, Oregon, USA. Subsequently, I had received the NSF postdoctoral award to work at Virginia Tech., USA and the German Alexander von Humboldt award to work at Helmholtz Zentrum, Munich, Germany before joining Presidency University as an Assistant Professor.
Research / Administrative Experience+
We are using a combination of extensive plant vegetation survey, in silico analyses, wet-lab genomic analyses, genetic mutant screening and stress phenotyping assay to address few yet unanswered questions of Plant Biology. The specific research topics of our laboratory are as following:
(1) Identification of genes controlling unique flowering times in tree bamboos: Bamboo is one of the most primitive members of the monocot plant family and possesses a unique flowering behavior, which ranges from 1-120 years. On the basis of the flowering cycle, bamboos have been categorized in three major groups: annual flowering, sporadic or irregular flowering and gregarious flowering. Of these, particular interests is on the gregarious flowering, where the onset of the reproductive phase occurs simultaneously in all the members of a cohort or species across a wide area and subsequently dies together. It is regarded as a bad omen in many of the Eastern Indian states due to enormous crop loss inflicted by an increase in rodent’s population. Although many of these ecological aspects of bamboo are known for decades, yet we know very little about the genes and pathways that regulate such a unique flowering behavior. A major objective of this study will be to identify the molecular players that control induction of flowering in tree bamboos, with major focus on tropical bamboos available in North East India.
Prof. Amita Pal, FNASc., Division of Plant Biology, Bose Institute, Kolkata
Prof. Tapas Chandra Ghosh, Bioinformatics Center, Bose Institute. Kolkata
Dr. Bhaskar Gupta, DBS, Presidency University
Current Group members working on this topic:
1. Prasun Biswas (UGC-NET awardee)
2. Ms. Sukanya Chakraborty (CSIR project fellow)
(2) Understanding the role of strigolactones in plant’s response to osmotic stresses: Strigolactones are one of the most recently invented groups of plant hormones having multiple physiological and ecological functions in plants. We anticipate that they will have key role in plants tolerance to environmental stresses. This hypothesis has very recently been experimentally proven in the model plant system Arabidopsis thaliana based on loss-of-function mutant screening (Ha et al., 2014). Since Brassicaceae is an economically important plant group and hosts many wild halophytic species, we would like to investigate if their osmotolerant mechanism is partially/fully dependent on strigolactone signaling. To answer this question we are performing plant stress phenotyping assays with or without exogenous addition of SLs. We are measuring in planta SL level and are comparing that data with the transcript abundance of SL biosynthetic and receptor genes. We expect that the outcome generated from this study will lay the foundation to improve Brassica crop tolerance by engineering SL biosynthetic or signaling pathways.
Current Group members working on this topic: Ms. Shayani Das Laha (DST-INSPIRE awardee)
(3) Role of gene duplication on the evolution of novel plants stress genes in Brassicaceae: Gene/genome duplication is a unique phenomenon in flowering plants by which they acquire functional innovation, particularly novel stress response genes. One extreme example is the crop species of Brassicas, which have undergone 3 round of whole genome duplication and additionally one round of whole genome triplication. A significant amount of these retained genes are related to various biotic and abiotic stresses, such as salt/ drought stresses and are undergoing functional divergence to acquire novel stress functions. No systematic efforts have been undertaken to check the consequence of such expansions/mutations on the emergence of novel stress response genes. The availability of very recently sequenced B. rapa/B. napus genome/transcriptomes now provides us the opportunity to address such questions. The specific research question that we are asking is what is the consequence of whole genome duplication and genome triplication on the evolution of novel stress response genes in Brassicaceae.
- Prof. Ian Bancroft, University of York, UK
- Dr. Georg Haberer, Institute of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology, Germany
- Dr. Tony Schaeffner, Institute of Biochemical Plant Pathology, Germany
Current Group members working on this topic:
- Shayani Das Laha (DST-INSPIRE fellowship awardee)
(4) Functional genomics of fiber development in tree bamboo
Bamboos constitute a major non-wood forest-fiber source for the paper and pulp production worldwide. However, the physical and chemical fiber characteristics that determine the suitability of traits to produce superior quality paper/pulp vary from species to species and even germplasm to germplasm. North-East India is one of the major hot spots of bamboo biodiversity. With the recent release of the first bamboo genome sequences, we now have access to all the gene sequences. Therefore, the objective of this project is to screen the wild bamboo germplasm of the N-E India to identify varieties which are superior in term of the fiber characteristics and then to identify potential molecular targets which regulate the superior features of bamboo fibers.
Teaching / Other Experience+
I teach Plant Developmental Biology, Genetic Engineering, Plant Tissue Culture, Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biology at both UG and PG level.
Post Graduate Supervision+
CURRENT DOCTORAL STUDENTS
1. Mr. Prasun Biswas (CSIR-UGC JRF awardee),
Tenure: 2013- 2018
Topic of research: Taxonomic, chromosomal and molecular characterization of flowering behavior in tree bamboo
2. Ms. Shayani Das Laha (DST-INSPIRE awardee)
Tenure: 2014- 2019
Topic of research: Identification of multi copy retention and functional diversification of important stress response genes in the crop species of Brassicaceae
3. Ms. Sukanya Chakraborty (CSIR project fellow)
Tenure: 2015- 2017
Topic of research: Identification and phylogenetic characterization of genes regulating flower induction in tree bamboos.
If you have passed NET/GATE examination and are interested to join my group, send me your concise resume through e.mail. There are possibilities of opening of new positions in near future. .
1. Das, M and Pal, A. (2005) In vitro regeneration of Bambusa balcooa Roxb.: factors affecting changes of morphogenetic competence in the axillary buds. Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture, 81: 109- 112.
2. Das, M., Bhattacharya, S. and Pal, A. (2005) Generation and Characterization of SCARs by Cloning and Sequencing of RAPD Products: A Strategy for Species-Specific Marker Development in Bamboo. Annals of Botany, 95: 835–841.
3. Bhattacharya, S.*, Das, M.*, Bar, R. and Pal, A. (2006) Morphological and Molecular Characterization of Bambusa tulda with a Note on Flowering. Annals of Botany 98: 529- 535 *equal contribution.
4. Das, M., Bhattacharya, S., Basak, J. and Pal, A. (2007) Phylogenetic relationships among the bamboo species as revealed by morphological characters and polymorphism analyses. Biologia Plantarum 51(4): 667-672.
5. Das, M.*, Bhattacharya, S., Singh, P., Filgueiras, T.S. and Pal, A. (2008) Bamboo taxonomy and diversity in the era of molecular markers. Advances in Botanical Research 47: 225-268 *corresponding author.
6. Bhattacharya, S., Ghosh, J.S., Das, M. and Pal, A. (2009) Morphological and molecular characterization of Thamnocalamus spathiflorus subsp. spathiflorus at population level. Plant Systematics and Evolution 282: 13-20.
7. Das, M., Reichman, J.R., Haberer, G., Welzl, G., Aceituno, F.F., Mader, M.T., Watrud, L.S., Pfleeger, T.G., Gutiérrez, R., Schäffner, A.R. and Olszyk, D. (2010) A composite transcriptional signature differentiates responses towards closely related herbicides in Arabidopsis thaliana and Brassica napus. Plant Molecular Biology 72(4-5):545-56.
8. Wickett, NJ., Loren, A.H., Wafula, E.K., Das, M., Huang, K., Wu, B., Timko, M.P., Yoder, J., Westwood, J. and dePamphilis, C.W. (2011) Expression of the chlorophyll synthesis pathway in a non-photosynthetic plant revealed by the transcriptomes of above ground structures from three parasitic plants from the family Orobanchaceae. Current Biology 21: 2098-2104.
9. Westwood, J.H., dePamphilis, C.W., Das, M., Fernández-Aparicio, M., Honaas, L.A., Timko, M.P., Wickett, N.J. and Yoder, J.I. (2012) The Parasitic Plant Genome Project: New Tools for Understanding the Biology of Orobanche and Striga. Weed Science 60: 295-306.
10. Zhang, Y., Fernandez-Aparicio, M., Wafula, E., Das, M., Jiao, Y., Wickett, N.J., Honaas, L.A., Ralph, P.A., Wojciechowski, M.F., Timko, M.P., Yoder, J.I., Westwood, J.H., and dePamphilis, C.W. (2013) A horizontally acquired legume gene, albumin 1, in the parasitic plant Phelipanche aegyptiaca and related species. BMC Evolutionary Biology 13:48
11. Yang Z, Wafula EK, Honaas LA, Zhang H, Das M, Fernandez-Aparicio M, Huang K, Gunathilake PC, Wu B, Der JP, Clarke CR, Ralph PE, Landherr L, Altman NS, Timko MP, Yoder JI, Westwood JH and dePamphilis CW (2015) Comparative transcriptome analyses reveal core parasitism genes and suggest gene duplication and repurposing as sources of structural novelty. Molecular Biology and Evolution 32(3): 767–790