Published: 09th December 2021
IISER Bhopal researchers believe they have sequenced the genome of the turmeric plant
The authors of the study claim to have found the genetic structures associated with major enzymes involved in the production of curcuminoids, the key medicinal compounds present in turmeric
A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal claim to have sequenced the genome of the turmeric plant for the first time in the world. The results of their work have been published in a Nature group journal called Communications Biology. The research team was led by Dr Vineet K Sharma, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the institute. He co-authored the paper with Abhisek Chakraborty, Shruti Mahajan and Shubham K Jaiswal. “We have, for the first time in the world, sequenced the genome of Turmeric, the golden spice of India,” Sharma said. The institute claims that turmeric has been focused in more than 3,000 publications, however, the whole genome sequence was not known until now.
The researchers have used two techniques – the short-read sequencing of 10x Genomics (Chromium) and long-read Oxford Nanopore sequencing – to unravel the genetic makeup of turmeric. The authors of the study claim to have found the genetic structures associated with major enzymes involved in the production of curcuminoids, the key medicinal compounds present in turmeric. They have also shown the evolutionary origin of these enzymes. “Being the first elucidation of the genetic makeup of turmeric, our study has provided hitherto unknown information about the plant,” said the lead researcher.
“Our studies have shown that many genes in turmeric have evolved in response to environmental stressors,” Sharma said. The plant developed unique genetic pathways for synthesis of secondary metabolites such as curcuminoids for its own survival. These secondary metabolites are responsible for the medicinal properties of the herb. The developments in DNA and RNA sequencing technologies have spurred on a new discipline called 'herbal genomics'. The field attempts to understand the genetic composition of herbs and their relationship to the medicinal traits, only a few well-assembled herbal genomes have been studied so far.
The researchers performed comparative evolutionary analysis across 17 plant species, focusing on the poorly understood areas of various herbs, such as their genetic backgrounds. The comparison showed the evolution of genes associated with secondary metabolism, plant phytohormones (growth hormones) signalling, and various biotic and abiotic stress tolerance responses. There have been multiple studies on the supposed healing properties of turmeric over the years. In this context, the genome sequence of turmeric would be instrumental in further understanding its uses and its validity for modern medicine.