M.Phil., Biochemistry and Genetics, Department of Botany, Kurukshetra University (India) 1988.
M.Sc., Botany (Plant Physiology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Plant Ecology) Kurukshetra University (India) 1987.
B.Sc. (Medical), Majors: Zoology, Chemistry and Botany; Maharishi Dayanand
University (India) 1985.
1. We have genetically engineered plants for phytoremediation of arsenic by overexpressing two bacterial genes, arsenate reductase (ArsC) and gamma-glutamyle cysteine synthetase (g-ESC). These plants are highly resistant and hyperaccumulated 3-fold more arsenic in the aboveground tissues. This research was published in a high profile journal Nature Biotechnology (Dhankher et al., 2002). This paper is the first proof of concept for remediation of arsenic contaminated soil or water by engineered plants. My research work on arsenic phytoremediation was discussed and written by other researchers in many journals. It was in headline news in more than 1000 national and international newspapers (e.g. USA Today, Salt Lake Tribune, Try-City Herald, Augusta Chronicles, Athens Banner Herald, Macon Chronicles, Sun Sentinels (USA), The Ottawa Citizen (Canada), Le Monde (France), Indian Express, Central Chronicles (India) etc.) and science magazines (e.g. The Scientist, National Geography, Science Daily, MIT Technology Review, Geotime, La Recherche (France), Down to Earth, Terragreen etc.). It was also featured in headlines on National Geographic Channel, ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation), Reuters, Science News bulletin Indian TV etc. This work has helped to open up a new area of phytoremediation research. It demonstrates that engineering plants with multiple transgenes can be used to get a synergistic effect that transcends what either gene could accomplish on its own. It also revealed the potential to use plant genetic engineering for a new application that could have a major positive impact on the environment.
We are cloning more genes that can further enhance As tolerance and hyperaccumulation
in shoot tissues. We will develop and transfer these arsenic phytoremediation
strategies in fast growing high biomass accumulating plants for field
trials. For efficient phytoremediation of arsenic, it is important to
engineer fast growing high biomass plants with less agronomic requirements.
It is also equally important that engineered crop plants should not be
food crops and easily distinguishable even by layman in order to avoid
accidental human exposure. We have selected Crambe species (a member of
Brassica family) an ideal crop for subsurface arsenic phytoremediaon.
It is cultivated in many parts of world as a non-food crop, mainly for
industrial oils used in lubricants, additive in synthetic rubber, adhesives
and electrical insulation. It can be rotated with rice crop and well suited
for Indian sub-Continent where arsenic pollution is widespread. We are
developing a transformation method and engineering Crambe for arsenic
detoxification and sequestration.
3. We are developing a research program on crop improvement for enhancing
human health. In this we will conduct research on the fundamental aspects
of plant mineral ion transport such as Zn, Fe, Ca, PO4, enhancing their
uptake in plants and reducing the uptake of toxic metals such as Cd, Cu,
Ni, Pb, Cr, As, and Hg in plants to prevent the entry of these toxic metals
into the food chain in order to improve human health. We will use existing
data bases and work with collaborators to identify genes that control
mineral nutrient uptake and stress tolerance, and will engineer crop plants
using both forward and reverse genetics strategies in order to enhance
and/or block the uptake of nutrient and toxic ions.
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