Scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) have completed the whole genome sequencing of a rare bacteria capable of producing antifungal and insecticidal compounds, opening up the potential to develop a new line of products for biocontrol applications in agriculture.
In the course of a research work on unknown microbial resources, the team from the microbiology division of JNTBGRI isolated some strains of actinomycetes (a kind of hairy bacteria) from the forest soils of the Neyyar wildlife sanctuary, one of the 12 mega diversity centres in the world. One of the isolates was identified as Streptosporangium nondiastaticum reported to have antimicrobial properties.
The team led by S. Shiburaj, Head, Department of Microbiology, JNTBGRI and comprising V. Gayathri and T.G. Nandu completed the whole genome sequencing of the strain.
Bioinformatics analysis showed that the genome contained a plant chitinase, an enzyme capable of degrading fungi and insect exoskeleton. The scientists have cloned the gene and engineered the recombinant protein.
The strain can produce metabolytes that are toxic to plant pathogens, making it a candidate for biocontrol applications, according to R. Prakashkumar, Director, JNTBGRI who was also part of the research team.
“Across the world, fungal phytopathogens cause significant agricultural crop loss, both in farmlands and post-harvest storage conditions. The use of microorganisms to control phytopathogens and pests offers an important alternative to chemical fungicides and pesticides which result in environmental pollution and development of resistance in fungal pathogens.”
Dr. Prakashkumar said further research was going on to develop topical antifungal cream and lotion from Streptosporangium nondiastaticum. Simultaneously, the institute has initiated a project for the whole genome sequencing of lemony scented piper and wild cardamom.
In another development, scientists from the institute have completed the metagenome sequencing of soil samples from the flood affected Manimala river bank. Metagenomics involves the sequencing of DNA recovered directly from environmental samples to expose the presence of microbial communities without requiring prior laboratory cultivation.
The work revealed that the floods had altered the soil microbial composition. It showed the presence of a high number of plant pathogenic fungi in the region.
By T. Nandakumar